China executes virus checkpoint killer

World | AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE 10 Jul 2020

A Chinese man who stabbed two people to death at a coronavirus travel checkpoint was executed yesterday, the Supreme People's Court said.

Ma Jianguo was driving with friends to a village in rural Yunnan for a karaoke party when he came to a barricade. One of them tried to remove it and sparked a dispute with people manning it.

Ma, 24, then stabbed two checkpoint volunteers several times in the abdomen, killing them, the court said on its social media account.

At the time in February, tens of millions of Chinese were under complete lockdown as the country grappled with the coronavirus outbreak.

"During a grade-one major public health emergency response in Yunnan province, Ma Jianguo refused to abide by epidemic prevention and control policies, as well as traffic control measures," the ruling said.

Since the pandemic erupted late last year in Wuhan, China has charged hundreds of people with offenses related to the crisis, such as spreading "rumors" about the contagion, concealing an infection and not complying with prevention guidelines.

Ma's execution is believed to be the first carried out for an epidemic-related offense.

In Beijing alone, 113 people have been charged with epidemic-related crimes since a fresh outbreak emerged last month, officials said.

Authorities have used the vague "rumor-mongering" charge to silence whistle-blowers, including the late Wuhan doctor Li Wenliang, who alerted colleagues to the virus in late December but was reprimanded.

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