BEIJING — A Chinese court sentenced a nanny to death Friday for setting a fire that killed three children and their mother, in a case that has prompted a national discussion about greed, trust, inequality and neglect.
The nanny, Mo Huanjing, 35, was convicted of arson for igniting her employer’s apartment in June. Authorities said Mo, who had more than $9,500 in gambling debt, had planned to start a fire and then extinguish it, hoping that the family would reward her financially for coming to their rescue.
In its decision Friday, the Hangzhou Intermediate People’s Court in eastern China called Mo’s motive “despicable” and said that she had “seriously damaged public security and caused social harm.”
The father of the children, Lin Shengbin, who was away on a business trip at the time of the fire, attended the sentencing Friday. On his blog, titled “Wife and Children in Heaven,” he praised the court’s decision.
“The devil finally got punished by the law,” he wrote. “I’ve been tortured day and night for more than 200 days. Today, there is finally resolution.”
The case touched a nerve among the growing ranks of China’s urban middle class, many of whom depend on less well-off workers from rural areas for child care, cooking and cleaning.
Lin, a successful entrepreneur, lived in a $3 million apartment in the middle of Hangzhou, a rich technology capital. Mo, who started working as a live-in nanny for the family in 2016, was a migrant from the southern province of Guangdong.
This handout picture taken on February 1, 2018 and released by the Hangzhou Intermediate People’s Court on February 9 shows defendant Mo Huanjing (C) speaking in the court in Hangzhou in China’s eastern Zhejiang province.
In the immediate aftermath of the fire, some expressed sympathy for Mo, saying she was overburdened by debt and desperate.
But public opinion turned decidedly against Mo amid news reports that portrayed her as a gambling addict who had stolen and pawned the family’s jewelry, and squandered money the family had lent her.
The reaction to the court’s decision Friday was overwhelmingly positive.
“If she died 100 times it wouldn’t be enough,” wrote one user on Weibo, a microblogging platform.
Mo was shown in state news media reports standing solemnly in a courtroom. She did not speak at the sentencing, according to reports.
In a letter made public during her trial, Mo expressed remorse, saying, “If my death will make everything start over again, I’m willing to be sentenced to death.”
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It was unclear if Mo would appeal the decision. Under Chinese law, the Supreme People’s Court in Beijing must review death sentences.
While the Chinese government says it has reduced the use of the death penalty in recent years, it does not release statistics, and China is still believed to execute far more prisoners than any other country. Critics …read more