China court gives out new death penalty years after executing wrong man for rape-murder

Zhao Zhihong (centre), a man who confessed to murdering a woman in China 18 years ago, went on trial in the Intermediate People's Court in Hohhot, north China's Inner Mongolia region on Jan 5, 2015, three weeks after a court cleared the teenager who
Zhao Zhihong (centre), a man who confessed to murdering a woman in China 18 years ago, went on trial in the Intermediate People's Court in Hohhot, north China's Inner Mongolia region on Jan 5, 2015, three weeks after a court cleared the teenager who was wrongfully executed for the crime. Zhao was sentenced to death on Monday, Feb 9, 2015, for crimes including the rape and murder of the woman in 1996, state media reported. -- PHOTO: AFP

BEIJING (Reuters) - A court in China sentenced a man to death on Monday for crimes including the murder and rape of a woman in 1996 which another person was wrongly executed for before being exonerated last year, state media reported.

Zhao Zhihong, 42, was detained in 2005 and confessed to a series of rapes and murders, including one in a public toilet in Inner Mongolian capital Hohhot in 1996 that was blamed on Huugjilt, then aged 18.

Huugjilt, who like many Chinese Mongols used just a single name, was later executed.

A court in December overturned his conviction and awarded his parents - who attended Zhao's verdict hearing - compensation.

The court additionally ordered Zhao to pay 102,768 yuan (S$22,296) in compensation to his victims.

China has embarked on legal reforms, including reducing the use of the death penalty, as public discontent mounts over wrongful punishment.

While wrongful executions have often stirred outrage, capital punishment itself has wide support from the public.

Anti-death penalty campaigners say China uses the death penalty far more than other countries. The government does not release the number of executions it carries out, deeming it a state secret.