Police in China’s Sichuan province are hunting for a decorated police officer who killed three people and injured two others in a Tuesday afternoon shooting rampage.
The authoritarian Chinese Communist government has some of the strictest gun control laws in the world. The suspect, identified in Chinese media as Li Qiang, is a 36-year-old police officer who was decorated for his bravery in 2021 after he saved two people from drowning. It is possible he used his service weapon to carry out the shooting.
The Chinese government appears to be deleting online information about Li Qiang and obfuscating if he was an active-duty officer at the time of the shooting. Agency France-Presse (AFP) reported on Thursday that it was able to confirm Li’s name, age, and commendation for bravery before the notice of his decoration was deleted by the city of Leshan’s public security bureau. The deleted article said Li joined the police force in 2012.
County officials said they were “unaware” of Li’s duty status.
“The incident has led to heated debate online, with related hashtags viewed over 250 million times,” AFP noted.
China’s Caixin Global News reported on Friday that police are offering a reward of 100,000 yuan ($14,830) for information leading to Li’s arrest.
Few details about the shooting have been made public, but Chinese officials said, “all guns and ammunition involved in the case were seized.”
The UK Times noted that official reports on the shooting omitted the detail that Li was a police officer, but they included his photo and ID number, so reporters were able to establish his identity.
“Local media reported that Li was armed with a 92-type pistol and 20 rounds of ammunition. He wounded two at a residential community before fleeing in his car,” the Times related. The QSZ-92 pistol is a standard sidearm for the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and many Chinese police agencies.
“Online rumors said the motive behind the shooting was related to a family dispute, where the injured parties were a lover of Li’s wife and his family members. Others suggested a gambling-related debt,” the Times wrote.
As most reports on the incident noted, shootings are rare in China given the government’s general refusal to let its captive citizens have guns. Instead, China has mass stabbing incidents, including a string of attacks in the summer of 2021 that culminated in June with six people killed and 14 injured by a 25-year-old unemployed man with a knife.