By Paul Armstrong and Josh Levs, CNN
HONG KONG (CNN) — A car theft in China that spiraled into a manhunt and a baby’s killing has left the country grieving and sparked outrage on social media.
The body of the infant, whose name was Haobo, was found buried in the snow Wednesday. His father, Xu Jialin, said he and his wife identified their two-month-old son, according to state-run news agency Xinhua.
Thousands gathered in a square Tuesday night in Changchun, the capital of Jilin Province, to mourn the baby, killed by “a thief who found the missing boy sleeping in a car he had stolen,” Xinhua reported.
The 48-year-old man, identified as Zhou Xijun, turned himself in to police Tuesday and confessed that he had killed the baby and buried him in the snow, Xinhua reported, citing local police.
Xu, the father, had parked his car Monday in front of the supermarket he runs in Changchun and entered the store to turn on a stove, leaving his son in the back seat with the car’s engine still running, according to state-run news reports.
Xu returned minutes later to find his car was missing. He called police immediately.
Zhou had allegedly stolen the grey Toyota SUV and discovered the child on the backseat as he drove the vehicle away.
More than 8,000 police and hundreds of volunteers joined a search for the child for two days.
Zhou has confessed “that he parked the car on the roadside and choked the baby about an hour after he stole the car. He then abandoned the baby’s clothes and the car in the nearby city of Gongzhuling,” Xinhua reported.
The car’s license plate and the child’s clothes were found in a ditch 500 meters away from the car.
Fury on social media
News of the murder provoked a storm of anger on Chinese social media, particularly Weibo, the country’s version of Twitter.
While many people demanded the death penalty for Zhou, others questioned why the baby had been left in the car.
“What kind of people will leave their babies alone in cars?” asked @Qiyanhenxiaozhang.
“The parents abandoned their children. When they leave their baby in the car, they should know something bad might happen,” posted @Lingluandabaomaoyeye.
Some pointed the finger at the media.
“Everywhere is posting information about the baby, and they irritated the killer and provoked his desperate act. The media has done a really bad work,” said Shenshang.
“The media surely has the rights to spread information, but they should consider the baby’s safety as well,” said another netizen, @zhongguorenshidiqiushangdeqiji.
Anger over car ad
Another twist has led to widespread anger at a car dealership that used the incident to push the features of its vehicles.
A Buick dealership cited the Baby Haobo incident — before it was known that the child had been killed — to advertise its OnStar GPS system, which allows the owner “to track and lock down a stolen vehicle at any time and place.”
Some people followed up with social media posts saying they won’t buy a Buick.
The Buick dealership, Liaoning Tianhe, apologized on Weibo to the family of the victim and to the public for the “emotional damage” it caused.
CNN’s Feng Ke and Dayu Zhang in Beijing contributed to this report.