Chinese poisoner executed

A snack-shop owner who confessed to killing dozens of people by poisoning food at a rival’s store in eastern China was executed today, the government said, in a quick announcement about a case it had been reluctant to publicise for weeks.

A snack-shop owner who confessed to killing dozens of people by poisoning food at a rival’s store in eastern China was executed today, the government said, in a quick announcement about a case it had been reluctant to publicise for weeks.

Xinhuanet.com, the website of China’s official government news agency, announced the execution in a one-sentence report posted on the section of its site devoted to news in Nanjing, where the poisonings took place.

China Central Television, in its national noon news broadcast, said Chen Zhengping’s appeal had been denied by the Jiangsu High People’s Court, clearing the way for his execution. China’s Supreme Court also approved the death sentence, CCTV said.

Executions in China are typically carried out immediately after the final appeal.

The poisonings on September 15 in Nanjing killed at least 38 people and made up to 300 others ill, according to state television. Other reports put the death toll as high as 42.

Chen was sentenced to death on September 30 after a trial in the Nanjing Intermediate People’s Court.

He was arrested on September 16 aboard a train in Zhengzhou, a city about 370 miles north west of Nanjing. He confessed a day later to spreading the poison at his rival’s shop, according to Xinhua.

He said he was resentful about the success of the competing shop.

Authorities kept a tight lid on information about the poisonings and did not release a death toll for four days. The website of the Communist Party newspaper People’s Daily eventually said most victims were schoolchildren and two were soldiers from a nearby military installation.

China has suffered poisoning attacks in the past blamed on business rivalries or people with grudges. In July, a noodle shop owner in southern China was arrested on charges that he poisoned customers at a rival business by putting rat poison in soup sold there, making 57 people ill.

Tests on the Nanjing food identified the substance as a brand of rat poison called Dushuqiang, which has been banned for sale in China since the mid-1990s, according to the Nanjing Agriculture and Forestry Bureau. But the bureau said the poison was still widely available in rural areas from illegal producers.

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