A retired Communist Party cadre in central China’s Henan province was sentenced to death on Thursday for driving his car into groups of schoolchildren, killing one student and injuring several more.
At around midday on Feb. 29, 2016, Ma Gaochao drove his car at high speed onto the campus of the No. 1 High School of Nanyang, where he struck a group of schoolchildren leaving class, injuring six. Ma then drove off the school grounds to a nearby intersection and mowed down another group of students as they crossed the road, injuring five more and killing one before fleeing the scene.
Chinese reports on the incident stated that Ma was a retired official at the local procuratorate who sought revenge on society after being caught up in a business dispute.
Ma was found guilty of endangering public safety by the Intermediate People’s Court of Nanyang City, according to The Paper, Sixth Tone’s sister publication. In addition to the death sentence, Ma was also ordered to pay 680,000 yuan ($100,000) in court fees to the plaintiffs.
Children and schools in China occasionally become targets for those with broader grievances against society. Last month, a 22-year-old man surnamed Xu set off an explosion at a kindergarten in eastern China’s Jiangsu province, killing himself and seven others. It was reported that Xu had worked near the site of the blast since abandoning his studies due to poor health.
In January, a man injured 12 children with a knife at a village kindergarten in southern China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. Police said he was motivated by a desire to take revenge on the other villagers, whom he said had bullied him.
Despite causing the death of a student, Ma was not prosecuted under China’s murder or manslaughter laws. Instead, he was convicted of endangering public safety, a wide-ranging crime usually leveled at those whose actions lead to fires, explosions, or contamination incidents. While most offenders are handed fixed terms of imprisonment of under 10 years, capital punishment has been used against those whose actions lead to the deaths of innocent bystanders. In 2015, the Supreme People’s Court issued guidelines urging harsher punishments for those found guilty of the crime.
Last November, a court in Xi’an sentenced a 27-year-old man to death under the crime of endangering public safety after he drove a car into a crowd of people fighting outside a restaurant, killing one and injuring another. The man claimed the fight started after a fellow diner started touching his friend’s girlfriend.
The following month, the new guidelines were invoked in the death sentence of a 30-year-old man to death in Guangzhou, in southern China’s Guangdong province. Under the influence of hallucinogenic drugs, the man rampaged through the streets, hacking at bystanders with a meat cleaver. A 1-year-old girl was killed during the incident.
Editor: Kevin Schoenmakers.
(Header image: A view of the front gate of Nanyang No. 1 High School in Nanyang, Henan province, June 2016. From the school’s official Weibo account)