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Japan Hangs Chinese Prisoner, 1st Foreigner Executed In 10 Years

Japan's Justice Minister Masako Mori, pictured in 2014, called it an "extremely cruel and brutal case." She signed Wei Wei's execution order on Monday.
Noriyuki Aida
Bloomberg via Getty Images
Japan's Justice Minister Masako Mori, pictured in 2014, called it an "extremely cruel and brutal case." She signed Wei Wei's execution order on Monday.

A 40-year-old Chinese national convicted of murder was executed in Japan on Thursday. His hanging marks the first execution of a foreign-born prisoner in that country in a decade.

Wei Wei, who was living in Japan on a student visa, was found guilty of burglarizing the family home of a clothing shop owner and killing the entire family in 2003.

In the final ruling against him several years later, the courts concluded Wei and two accomplices ransacked the house for valuables then killed the shop owner, his wife and their two children, Kyodo News reported.

They later dumped the bodies into the ocean.

"It is an extremely cruel and brutal case in which the happily living family members, including an 8-year-old and 11-year-old, were all murdered because of truly selfish reasons," Justice Minister Masako Mori said at a press conference, according to the BBC.

Mori added that she signed off on the execution — her first since assuming the post in October — "after careful consideration."

Wei had been on death row for 16 years.

The other men fled to China, eluding capture by Japanese authorities. But they were later arrested and tried by the communist government. One man was sentenced to death and executed in 2005. The other received life in prison.

The AP reports:

"Since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe returned to power in 2012, his government has executed 39 people. Last year, Japan hanged 15 people, including the guru of the Aum Shinrikyo cult and 12 former followers convicted in a deadly Tokyo subway gassing."

In a report analyzing 2018 figures, Amnesty International recorded executions in 20 countries — the second-lowest number in the past two decades. In the U.S., 25 people were executed that year.

However, the group's total of 690 executions worldwide does not include the thousands of executions it believes were carried out in China.

Without China, according to the findings, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam and Iraq accounted for 78% of all reported executions.

Meanwhile, at least 2,531 people awaited death sentences in 54 countries. That marked a slight decrease from the total of 2,591 reported in 2017.

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Vanessa Romo is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She covers breaking news on a wide range of topics, weighing in daily on everything from immigration and the treatment of migrant children, to a war-crimes trial where a witness claimed he was the actual killer, to an alleged sex cult. She has also covered the occasional cat-clinging-to-the-hood-of-a-car story.