• Kyodo

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A Chinese man was sentenced to death here Monday and his accomplice got life in prison after they were found guilty of the 2003 murder of a family of four in Fukuoka Prefecture.

The high-profile case sparked debate in Japan about crimes committed by Chinese.

The Intermediate People’s Court in Liaoyang sentenced Yang Ning, 24, to death and Wang Liang, 22, to life during a 20-minute morning session.

The court also found them guilty of robbery and theft, and decided to strip them of their political rights and to seize their personal assets.

Yang’s crimes were “atrocious and cruel,” and “evidence clearly shows” he had committed them, the court ruled.

Wang was spared the death sentence because he turned himself in and cooperated with investigators, according to the court.

Yang told the court he will appeal the ruling, while Wang said he will not.

A final verdict is expected by the Higher People’s Court within six months. Death sentences in China are often carried out immediately after the final verdict, and the common method has been a bullet to the back of the head.

The two Chinese, formerly students in Japan, were found guilty of killing 41-year-old clothing dealer Shinjiro Matsumoto, his wife, Chika, 40, their 11-year-old son, Kai, and 8-year-old daughter, Hina.

Shinjiro was strangled with a tie, Chika was drowned in the bathtub where she was taking a bath, Kai was smothered by a pillow and Hina was strangled. The handcuffed bodies of the four were pulled from Hakata Bay, where they had been dumped after being weighed down with dumbbells.

The two returned to China soon after the murders made national headlines in Japan. They were taken into custody by Chinese authorities in August 2003.

Because the two countries do not have an extradition treaty, the suspects were dealt with by Chinese authorities under Chinese laws and charged in July.

An accused accomplice, Wei Wei, 25, was arrested in Japan and is now standing trial before the Fukuoka District Court.

Yang and Wang had owned up to the charges in the opening session of their trial in October. In that session, which was attended by relatives of the victims, Wang fell on his knees and apologized in tears.

Chinese prosecutors had demanded the two receive “severe punishments,” noting their acts negatively affected Japan-China ties.

Ryoshichi Umezu, Chika Matsumoto’s father, told reporters at his home in Fukuoka that he “cannot accept” that Wang’s life was spared.

“I had thought both of the two would be given the death sentence. I cannot possibly report (the outcome) to the four (victims),” Umezu said.

Hidetomo Ueda, Wei’s lawyer, said he cannot comment on the Chinese court decision. Any comparison with his client’s trial would be meaningless because criminal procedures in Japan and China differ, he said.

As they did in the opening session in October, Chinese authorities allowed members of the Japanese media to attend the court proceedings.

The rare move was widely believed to be aimed at underscoring China’ efforts to curb crime at a time when concern is rising in Japan about crimes committed by Chinese, which made up about half of all recorded criminal cases by non-Japanese offenders from last January to November.

Although the Fukuoka murders received extensive coverage in Japan, newspaper articles and news broadcasts in China were few.

Dozens of Liaoyang residents gathered outside the courthouse where the rulings were handed down, but those interviewed said they had not heard about the slayings.

“I just came because there was a crowd,” a 50-year-old resident said. “I didn’t know there was such a case.”

The court was initially expected to hand down rulings for the two within 15 days of their October trial session.

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