Monday, September 23, 2002

Dateline: China

The questions is...what do the rats eat?

Chinese man executed for poisoning classmates

Beijing — A former high-school student who was found guilty of killing two classmates with rat poison has been executed in eastern China, a court official said Monday.

Li Feng, 20, was convicted on murder charges and sentenced to death for putting the poison in breakfast porridge at his school in the city of Jinan in January 2001, said Meng Jianguo, an official at the Jinan Intermediate-Level People's Court.

The defendant poisoned his classmates to avenge a grudge after having been punished for cheating on a test and becoming angry at a schoolmate who allegedly wrote love letters to his girlfriend, Mr. Jianguo said.

Another seven students were hospitalized but survived the poisoning attack, he added.

Poisoning attacks spurred by grudges and business disputes are reported often in China.

Mr. Feng used an illegal but widely available type of rat poison, Mr. Jianguo said. The same poison was also used by a man who police say admitted to killing 38 people earlier this month in the eastern city of Nanjing by spiking food from a snack shop.

Police say a businessman jealous of the success of the rival snack shop was behind the Sept. 14 attack, which the government says led to the hospitalization of some 200 people, many of them schoolchildren.

In July, the owner of a noodle shop was arrested in southern China on charges of putting rat poison in the food of a competing restaurant, according to state media. Dozens of people were sickened, but no deaths were reported.