A 21-year-old manicurist who was hailed a heroine after killing a government official and fending off two other alleged sex attackers used "excessive self-defense," according to a police investigation.
The case of Deng Yujiao has sparked public uproar in the mainland and become the subject of emotional discussions on the internet.
Reuters cited one web user on Sina.com, a popular Chinese site, as saying "everyone should pay attention to Yujiao because we care not only about her fate, but also about whether the law can protect every citizen."
According to observers, the central government fears the case may inflame social passions ahead of Thursday's 20th anniversary of the bloody Tiananmen Square crackdown.
Academics, lawyers and journalists have set up a group to help Deng. Last Wednesday, they issued a public letter titled To defend Deng Yujiao in the name of justice, collecting more than 300 signatures in three days.
Deng worked as a manicurist at the Xiong Feng Hotel in Badong County, Hubei province. She claimed she acted in response to pressure from the men to provide sexual services.
According to the state media, Deng Guida, 44, a government official, entered the spa relaxation area of the hotel with two other officials.
On spotting the young woman, who was washing some clothes, Deng Guida demanded she provide him with sexual services.
When she refused, Deng Guida and another official, Huang Dezhi, began to insult and harass her.
The China Daily reported Deng Guida threw some cash at her, and when she still did not comply, he pushed her down onto a sofa.
Deng Yujiao then picked up a fruit knife and allegedly stabbed the official three times in the throat. She also wounded Huang.
She turned herself in to the police soon afterwards.
Police said she may have been suffering from acute depression, but they are awaiting the results of an official examination.
The two other government officials involved, Huang, 41, and Deng Zhongjia, 45, were both sacked on Sunday.
Huang was also stripped of his Communist Party membership, Xinhua New Agency reported.