China poisoner sentenced to die

The Chinese authorities say Chen was inspired by Falun Gong

BBC News/December 31, 2003

A Chinese court has sentenced to death a man it said had been inspired by the banned Falun Gong movement to kill 16 people with rat poison.

The court in the eastern city of Wenzhou said that Chen Fuzhao handed out drinks laced with poison.

Fifteen of his victims were beggars, the other was a social worker who died after she drank water poisoned by Chen at a temple.

The killings took place between 25 May and 27 June this year.

According to China's state-run news agency, Xinhua, Chen was inspired by the Falun Gong spiritual movement, which is banned in China.

Xinhua said he committed his month-long killing spree in an effort to reach a state of "spiritual perfection".

Falun Gong claims to have millions of followers, but it was banned by China in 1999 and labelled an "evil cult".

Hundreds of its members are in jail and the movement claims that the Chinese authorities have killed and tortured several hundred followers.

The rat-poison case is the latest in a series of mass murders which have been given great prominence in the Chinese media in recent months.

One involved a man who murdered 67 people as he cycled between villages in the middle of the night.

And earlier this month, a man was executed for the murders of 17 school boys.

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