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27 August 1980
26 November 2008 (aged 28)|
|Cause of death||Lethal injection|
|Criminal penalty||Death penalty|
|Date||1 July 2008|
Yang received international media attention for the public sympathy accorded to him in China, where, according to exiled writer Ma Jian, Yang has become "a sort of national hero." Beijing lawyer and blogger Liu Xiaoyuan prominently defended Yang.
Yang, a jobless 28-year-old Beijing resident described as a loner, was reported to have been arrested and interrogated by the Shanghai police in October 2007 for riding a bicycle. According to his later testimony in court, he was insulted during the interrogation and beaten after being brought back to the station, leaving bruises on his arms and back. He then sued the police for maltreatment, to no avail.
According to Chinese authorities and media, Yang Jia ignited eight petrol bombs at the front gate of the police headquarters in Zhabei, a Shanghai suburb, at about 9:40 am, 1 July 2008 – the anniversary of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party. He then stabbed security guard Gu Jianming, who tried to stop Yang, with a knife. Subsequently, Yang charged into the building and randomly stabbed nine unarmed police officers, four in the lobby and duty room and five more while making his way up to the 21st floor, before police managed to subdue him.
Six policemen suffered stab wounds in their lungs, livers and necks and bled to death. Besides the knife and molotov cocktails, Yang carried with him a hammer, a dust mask and tear gas spray.
Trial and execution
Yang's trial was delayed on account of the 2008 Summer Olympics. On 27 August 2008, Yang was tried behind closed doors in a one-hour trial at the Shanghai No. 2 Intermediate People's Court. Four days later, the official news agency Xinhua announced that he had been found guilty of premeditated murder and received a death sentence, as had previously been expected.
Media coverage and public opinion in China
Yang initially benefited from unusually sympathetic coverage in the state-controlled Chinese press. The Beijing News pointed out that Yang's appointed lawyer, Xie Youming, might have had a conflict of interest as he is also a legal adviser for the city district that oversees the police station at issue. Southern Weekend published a long, sympathetic front-page story, while other Chinese papers hinted that Yang was wronged and demanded a fair trial. In the week leading up to the trial, though, the Shanghai media fell silent on the case and Chinese authorities increased efforts to censor Chinese internet coverage on the subject.
While there was initial public anger at the killings, Western media noted that discourse on Chinese internet forums and blogs soon became largely sympathetic to Yang, with many expressing suspicions that Yang might not receive a fair trial and that the police might want to cover up wrongdoings of their own. The Daily Telegraph quoted one Chinese blogger as praising Yang's "strong sense of the law" and another comparing him to Wu Song, a hero in Chinese literature. A message left on Yang's MySpace account was reported to have read: "You have done what most people want to do, but do not have enough courage to do."
On 13 October 2008, a public protest in support of Yang occurred outside the Shanghai court in which Yang's appeal was heard. According to Agence France-Presse, about a dozen protesters wearing T-shirts with Yang's face showed up and were arrested by police.
After his execution, Internet tributes to Yang continued to be posted in China. Agence France-Presse reported that very few Internet users expressed the opinion that Yang deserved his fate, reproducing the following contribution by a Chinese forum user as typical of many: "When you hold a knife up to the police, it's doomed to end this way. But Chinese history will remember Yang Jia's name forever."
Pan Gu (盤古樂隊), an underground Chinese rock band now in exile, released a five-song album named after Yang Jia, The Knife of My Home Country (故鄉的刀). One song was named after the well-known quote of Yang's: "You [the authorities] refuse to give me an explanation, I shall give you my own explanation". 
U.S. 2008 Human Rights report
The U.S. Department of State's 2008 Human Rights report mentioned Yang Jia:
|“||On 26 November, Yang Jia, who was accused of killing six Shanghai police officers on 1 July, was executed following a decision by the Shanghai High Court to uphold his conviction. Yang's case included serious irregularities at trial, and the appellate court deprived him an opportunity to be examined for mental illness despite a request by Yang's new attorney to allow it.||”|
- Weiquan movement, the Chinese civil rights movement
- Deng Yujiao incident concerning another Chinese person accused of murder receiving popular support
- 2010 Hebei tractor rampage
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