Execution in a Killing That Fanned Class Rancor

BEIJING — A 21-year-old music student who accidentally struck a young woman with his car, then silenced her by stabbing her to death on the roadway, was executed Tuesday in Xi’an, in northwestern China, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

The student, Yao Jiaxin, had lost an appeal of a death sentence handed down by a Xi’an court on April 22. The crime had fanned deep public resentment against the “fu er dai,” the “rich second generation” of privileged families who are widely believed to commit misdeeds with impunity because of their wealth or connections.

Mr. Yao was the son of employees of a state-owned corporation in China’s defense sector, one of them an executive and a military officer. The victim, Zhang Miao, 26, was a peasant.

Mr. Yao, a student at a local music conservatory, was driving a Chevy Cruze in Xi’an last Oct. 20 when he struck Ms. Zhang, who was riding a bicycle. She was not seriously injured, according to news reports. But when Mr. Yao realized that she was memorizing his license plate number, he stabbed her eight times with a knife. He said later that he feared the woman, a poor peasant, would “be hard to deal with” should she seek compensation for her injuries.

Mr. Yao was detained after a second auto accident that night and initially denied killing Ms. Zhang, but turned himself in four days later.

Ms. Zhang’s murder came just four days after another privileged son, Li Qiming, struck and killed a young university student with his automobile in Hebei Province, then fled the scene after telling guards who sought to stop him, “My father is Li Gang,” a local police official. Both crimes stirred national outrage on China’s social-networking Web sites; in January, Li Qiming was sentenced to six years in prison.

Ms. Zhang’s husband, Wang Hui, had rejected court-ordered compensation of about $6,900 for her death, calling it “money stained with blood.” He pledged to delay Ms. Zhang’s burial until her killer was executed.

A Shanghai lawyer later donated 540,000 renminbi, about $83,300, to her survivors after pledging to pay one renminbi for each message sent to the husband over Sina Weibo, a Chinese version of Twitter.

On Tuesday, public reaction on Weibo to the execution varied, with some calling it a victory for the rule of law and others calling Mr. Yao a victim of Internet-style mob rule.

One prominent Beijing lawyer, Liu Xiaoyuan, noted that it was highly unusual for courts to hand down a death sentence to someone who had turned himself in. A well-known blogger known as Beihei said that Mr. Yao “was shouted to death by the people,” adding, “The Cultural Revolution was started because of this kind of leftist behavior.”

A third well-known commentator in the Chinese media, Li Qianfan, wrote: “In a country guided by the rule of law, people would not clap their hands in joy over soon being executed. What I really hope to see is not the death of Yao Jiaxin, but the legal system being able to provide protection to the people.”

The New York Times

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