Man in NW China executed after decades-long blood feud

A man in northwest China has been executed for killing three neighbors in apparent revenge for his mother's death more than two decades ago

BEIJING -- A man in northwest China was executed Wednesday for killing three neighbors in apparent revenge for his mother's death more than two decades earlier.

The Supreme People's Court in Shaanxi province announced that it implemented the death penalty on Zhang Koukou for intentional homicide against three men — two brothers and their father — surnamed Wang.

The court statement detailed the two families' longstanding enmity — a blood feud that dates back to 1996.

That year, a dispute between Zhang's mother and one of the brothers, then 17-year-old Wang Zhengjun, resulted in her succumbing to a fatal injury. Taking into consideration Wang's youth and the behavior of Zhang's mother during the quarrel, the court at the time fined Wang 9,639 yuan ($1,400) and sentenced him to seven years in prison for intentionally injuring another person.

Zhang was still a teenager when his mother died. Over the following 22 years, the Supreme Court says, he continued to harbor resentment for her death. He struggled with his job, lifestyle and mental health.

But there were no further conflicts between the two households — until last year.

In early 2018, Zhang learned that Wang would be returning to their village to celebrate the Spring Festival. On the eve of the Lunar New Year, after Wang and his brother had just come back from offering sacrifices to their ancestors, Zhang approached and stabbed them to death. Then, he went to the home of Wang Zixin, the father, and fatally stabbed him as well before setting the family's car on fire.

Zhang fled the scene, only to surrender himself to police two days later.

The court said that Zhang had meticulously plotted the killings, preparing his weapons and observing his victims' movements as he waited for the best time to strike. At an initial trial in January, the state-run China Daily reported, Zhang admitted that he had been haunted all these years by the thought of avenging his mother's death.

His appeal, which included a mental health assessment, was rejected at the second trial in April.

Zhang's capital punishment has been furiously debated online. Some commenters on the Twitter-like Weibo platform praised him for his filial piety and described him as the embodiment of a "real man."