Yao Jiaxin, a college student who stabbed a young mother to death to cover up a hit-and run accident, was executed on Tuesday, sparking a new round of debate over the death penalty.
According to the Xinhua News Agency, the Supreme People's Court (SPC) reviewed the case and held that Yao had intentionally killed the victim, having run into her while driving his car and resorted to murder to silence her.
"Yao stabbed the victim in the chest, stomach and back several times until she died. The motive was extremely despicable; the measures were extremely cruel, and the consequences are extremely serious," Xinhua quoted a statement provided by the SPC as saying.
Yao, 21, a student at the Xi'an Conservatory of Music, was convicted of murdering Zhang Miao, 26, mother of a 2-year-old boy, in October in Xi'an, Shaanxi Province.
Zhang sustained minor injuries after being knocked off her bicycle by Yao's car. Instead of helping Zhang, Yao stabbed her eight times when he saw her writing down his license plate number.
In Yao's own words, he feared the "peasant woman would be hard to deal with" over the accident, media reported.
The Xi'an Intermediate People's Court sentenced Yao to death on April 22. Yao appealed the ruling, but the Shaanxi Provincial Higher People's Court heard the case and rejected the appeal on May 20, sending the case to the Supreme People's Court for review.
According to Xinhua, Yao surrendered himself to police in the company of his parents four days after the murder, but the SPC deemed that his surrender was not enough to warrant leniency.
Zhang Xian, the attorney for the victim, told the Global Times on Tuesday that Zhang Miao's family were satisfied with the verdict and that justice had been served.
"It was the result Yao deserved. It was not a matter of forgiveness but a pure legal matter. Some people blamed Zhang Miao's family for demanding the execution of Yao, which was baseless and caused more harm to the victim's family," Zhang Xian said, referring to the ongoing debate over Yao's death penalty.
Although many people supported the execution of Yao, some questioned the existence of the death penalty in China.
"Yao has committed a crime that is unforgivable, but do we really need to seek a life for a life? Is this the most civilized way for justice in this case?" the Shaanxi-based Chinese Business View newspaper quoted a letter sent by five local scholars as saying.
"One child has already lost his mother; do not let another mother lose her child. This is our simplest wish," said the letter sent before the execution.
Pi Yijun, professor at the China University of Political Science and Law, told the Global Times on Tuesday that the ruling was appropriate considering the cruelty of the murder.
"This was not a juvenile case. Yao is an adult man who has to bear responsibility for his actions," Pi said.
Regarding whether China should abandon the death penalty, Mo Jihong, a professor at the Law Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that it is still too early to draw any conclusions.
"China is reducing death sentences, but there is still some time needed before the complete abandonment of such rulings. We have to consider many factors, including culture and social understanding of the issue," Mo said, adding that there is no clear evidence showing that the death penalty has an impact on crime rate.
According to Xinhua, China's newly revised Criminal Law, approved by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress in February, has reduced the number of crimes punishable by death by 13 to 55.
Also on Tuesday, Yao's father, Qingwei, said on his blog that he hoped Yao Jiaxin's death would remove all his evils and no longer hurt society.
Yao Qingwei said that to realize the last wish of his son, he offered Zhang Miao's family 200,000 yuan ($30,859) outside the 45,498 yuan compensation ordered by the verdict, but that the offer was rejected.
"Zhang Miao's family made their stance very clear at the beginning of the case. The verdict did not mention whether they could take this kind of money," Zhang said.
"The crime he committed led to the penalty. I hope this case can alert those who despise another's life," Zhang Xian said in an interview with the People's Daily.