China executes couple for murder of

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Hong Kong
CNN
 — 

China has executed a couple for throwing two toddlers out of a high-rise apartment window, in a case that provoked nationwide outrage.

The man and his girlfriend were found guilty of killing the children from his first marriage by staging an accidental fall from a residential tower in the southwestern metropolis of Chongqing, so that they could start a new family.

The father, Zhang Bo, began an affair with Ye Chengchen and initially hid the fact that he was married with children, but Ye found out and Zhang divorced his wife, according to China’s supreme court.

Ye saw Zhang’s two children as an “obstacle” to them getting married and a “burden on their future life together,” the court heard. She repeatedly urged Zhang to kill the toddlers and threatened to break up with him if he didn’t.

After conspiring with Ye, in November 2020, Zhang threw his two-year-old daughter and one-year-old son from his 15th floor apartment when they were playing next to the bedroom window, killing them both, according to the court.

Zhang and Ye were sentenced to death in December 2021.

The Supreme People’s Court said the couple’s crime “seriously challenged the legal and moral bottom line,” calling their criminal motive “extremely despicable” and means “particularly cruel,” state news agency Xinhua reported.

News of their execution drew hundreds of millions of views on Chinese social media site Weibo, where it became a top trending topic.

“They deserved the punishment,” said a top comment with 27,000 likes.

“How very satisfying!” said another with 31,000 likes.

A study published in 2020 shows 68% of Chinese citizens are in favor of death penalty.

But John Zhuang Liu, a law professor at the University of Hong Kong who authored the paper, told CNN Thursday that online views might not accurately reflect China’s public opinion.

His study shows that Chinese people who express political views online tend to show greater support for the death penalty.

“We do not have a clear understanding of the general public’s views on the death penalty in China, and we lack a rigorous data collection channel,” he said.

The 2020 paper was based on the last available nationwide data collected in 2013.

“We don’t know whether public views have shifted since then,” he said.

China does not provide transparent information on the total number of executions, but the country is believed to be “the world’s top executioner” with thousands of people executed and sentenced to death each year, according to human rights group Amnesty International.

Wednesday’s execution also brought into focus the main method used in China to carry out the death penalty: lethal injection.

“It’s basically euthanasia. They had it easy,” said a comment on Weibo with 20,000 likes.

Some drew attention to the recent execution of Alabama inmate Kenneth Smith by nitrogen gas, a new method that experts have said could lead to excessive pain or even torture.

The execution was hailed by some Chinese social media users as a punishment that fits more serious crimes.

“Why do I think the 22-minute execution is very suitable for those who maliciously kill their wives, parents, children and the serial murderers?” a top comment said.

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