Published Tuesday, 07 June 2011
Chinese authorities have executed a piano student who accidentally drove into a young mother and then stabbed her to death so she would not demand compensation.
The high-profile case has become a focus of massive public resentment towards a privileged elite, as well as a source of concern that lethal justice is being handed down to placate internet mobs.
Yao Jiaxin, a 21-year-old student of the Xian Conservatory of Music, was killed – probably by lethal injection — shortly after losing an appeal at the supreme people's court.
He was sentenced in April for the murder of Zhang Miao, a 26-year-old mother, in Xian – the provincial capital of Shaanxi province.
Yao knocked his victim off her bike and then flew into a fury when he saw her noting down his licence plate – apparently to seek compensation for her minor injuries.
"Yao stabbed the victim's chest, stomach and back several times until she died. The motive was extremely despicable, the measures extremely cruel and the consequences extremely serious," the court said in a statement released through the state's Xinhua news agency.
The road-rage incident gained nationwide notoriety among China's online community, who are inclined to suspect the so-called "rich second generation" — young people with power and money — can avoid justice by using their connections.
The case was widely – though in many ways inappropriately — connected to a separate drink-driving fatality in which the son of a senior police officer reportedly shouted to bystanders that he could avoid prosecution because "My father is Li Gang."
Yao was not from a particularly wealthy or powerful family, but his piano education and the fact that his parents are employment by the defence industry appear to have added to the hatred generated by his crime. Many internet users are also suspicious after hearing that the propaganda department insisted media outlets could only use Xinhua reports about the issue rather than making their own investigations.
Internet chatrooms that debated this topic generated tens of thousands of responses, the vast majority of which demanded his death.
Many feared this put undue pressure on judges, particularly after a lower court acknowledged that public opinion would be taken into account when delivering a verdict.
However, after Tuesday's judgment, the lawyer Mo Shaoping – who is not connected to the case and opposes the death penalty – said the execution was in line with Chinese law.
"This was a very flagrant crime that would normally be punishable by death. With or without the media exposure, he would be executed," said Mo.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media 2011