Beijing airport bomber on trial - on stretcher

BEIJING (AFP) - A disabled Chinese man who set off a homemade explosive device at Beijing's international airport went on trial Tuesday in the capital, still suffering from the effects of the blast.

Ji Zhongxing, who lost his left hand in the explosion in July, was wheeled into court wearing pyjamas and on a yellow stretcher, pictures posted on a verified social media account run by Beijing court authorities showed.

He remained on it during the proceedings.

Ji, 34, faces a charge of "causing an explosion" but told the court he had not set off the device on purpose, although he had built it himself, the court said.

He added that he "deeply regretted" his actions and asked the court to "give him another chance", it said.

Two nurses accompanied him to court on account of his ill-health, and he was provided with water during the trial.

Ji, a former motorcycle driver, was reportedly the victim of a brutal attack by police officers in the southern city of Dongguan, which confined him to a wheelchair in 2005.

The bombing spotlighted how frustration over low-level abuses in China can flare up to trouble the authorities, analysts said.

Before detonating the explosive, Ji passed out leaflets highlighting his struggle to sue authorities for the attack, and warned passers-by to move away.

Ji had "lost all hope with society", following an unsuccessful battle for compensation, Hong Kong broadcaster Phoenix TV reported.

Internet users expressed sympathy for Ji after the blast, and did so again on Tuesday.

"For this social tragedy, society and the government must take responsibility," wrote one user of Sina Weibo, a social media service similar to Twitter.

Academics have estimated that protests - about anything from abuse to corruption to pollution - top 180,000 a year in China, even as the government devotes vast sums to "stability maintenance".

But legal paths for Chinese to pursue justice are limited. Courts are subject to political influence and corruption, and a system meant to let citizens lodge complaints about authorities is ineffective, with petitioners routinely finding themselves detained.