Li Xiaofei, a former employee of a subsidiary of oil company PetroChina, allegedly murdered four colleagues this week and then committed suicide.

Li had a long-term conflict with the company. The events are still under investigation, according to a Xi'an police statement.

A Public And Transparent Revenge 

Local news media reported following the killings some social contacts received a WeChat message from Li, saying he had murdered Zhang Yuxiang, the former legal representative of PetroChina subsidiary company Yumen Drilling - which is involved in a drilling project in the western region of China. 

Li forwarded a photo to a WeChat contact and called to say he had reported himself to the police and "would either go to police or commit suicide." He detailed the two addresses where he committed murder and said "I'm taking off" before he hung up the phone, according to the recorded call.

Zhang's wife and two property staff in the company were also murdered.

In a 2018 report by local media The Beijing News, Li claimed that during the period from 2011 to 2018, when Li worked in the company, he was treated "unfairly" on many occasions. He claimed to have broken up with his ex-girlfriend because the company didn't allow him to transfer to a new work location.

Li claimed to have collected evidence of executives using corporate money for travel and entertainment. As revenge, he decided to blackmail the company for 1 million yuan and ended up receiving 400,000 yuan in his personal bank account. 

Li confessed to local media that he greedily attempted further blackmail for another 2 million yuan but was refused by the company. He afterward disclosed the corruption issue to several local authorities but didn't receive satisfying answers.

Hush Money Or Petty Cash?

"It's been over one year since I turned myself in to the police for the 400,000 yuan I had blackmailed PetroChina's executives," Li said on his Weibo account in March. "However, there is no justice coming out. PetroChina's Commission for Discipline Inspection has only found 11 related items of discipline violation but harbored the most severe problems."

The company told local media that Li had "paranoid disorders" and his "evidence" was manipulated facts and said the money was loaned to Li to treat "mental illness."

The company sued Li this year for returning the 400,000 yuan as "inappropriate income."

The money written under "petty cash" in the company was an embezzlement violation under law, according to a civil judgment document by Xi'an Intermediate People's Court. The court said it was "stolen money" and denied the company's request and the case was beyond a "civil law case."

The document also showed in 2017, Li was diagnosed and treated in a local hospital in Xinjiang province as having a mood disorder and a middle- to severe-level depression. 

Ongoing Dispute

According to Tianyancha, a domestic Chinese enterprise information platform, as of Oct. 10, Zhang was no longer the representative of the subsidiary company. 

The company also has a few ongoing legal disputes including lawsuits for construction contracts and private lending. 

In 2017, the former vice chairperson and non-executive director of parent company PetroChina, Liao Yongyuan, was jailed for 15 years after being found guilty of corruption. The court in Dezhou in the northern province of Shandong said Liao had been found guilty of bribery, according to a Reuters report.