China Executes the ‘Land Granny’

Luo Yaping, a 51 year old Chinese citizen and the former head of a land sub-bureau in the city of Fushun, was executed in China this week after amassing a twenty-three million dollar fortune through bribes, kickbacks, and embezzlement of public funds.  Dubbed the “Land Granny,” Yaping’s crimes were described by China’s Anti-Corruption agency as being committed by “the lowest ranked official, the biggest amount, and the most evil means.”

In December 2010, the Intermediate People’s Court of Shenyang, found Yaping guilty on corruption charges and sentenced her to death.  The court held that Yaping had failed to provide any evidence proving that she had legally acquired the money.  The Supreme People’s Court affirmed the conviction and punishment this past June.

Arguably, the execution served two primary objectives for the Chinese government.  First, it punished a citizen who didn’t follow the letter of China’s heavy handed law.  Second, and more importantly, it sent a stern message to Chinese citizens who are increasingly voicing dissent over State sponsored land acquisitions.  According to a recent Reuters article, Chinese leaders are “struggling to tame both feverish property price rises and discontent over land grabs.  A recent survey found disputes over land acquisitions had reached a new peak driven by hectic development across China and was a leading cause of rural clashes.”

The severe punishment for a non-violent crime has raised eyebrows amongst many in the international community.  Andrew Shea, a writer for Business Insider, noted that “[t]he execution is surprising in a society where bribery runs rampant and ‘kickbacks’ are written into company budgets, and this lady is of relatively low rank.”  Amnesty International, an international human rights group, has heavily criticized the Chinese government for their “Strike Hard” campaigns whereby cases are investigated, tried, and punishments carried out in a rapid manner despite the possibility of a less than fair trial.

The vast majority of executions in China are the result of convictions for murder and drug trafficking.  However, corruption convictions are increasingly viewed by the Chinese government as crimes warranting a death sentence.  Do harsh penalties for traditionally non-capital crimes signal apprehension amongst Chinese leaders of possible uprisings?  Will the execution of the “Land Granny” serve as an effective deterrent for other Chinese citizens?  Will the threat of execution do anything to curb bribes and kick backs in China?  Does the threat of capital punishment help or hurt the Chinese government over both the short and long term?



  1. I don’t see the execution of Luo Yaping serving as an effective deterrent for other Chinese citizens, and if the threat of execution has any impact on bribery and kick-backs at all, I feel the effect will be minimal. Corruption in China has been a way of life for hundreds of years. The context of gift giving is a major part of doing business in China and is based on a deep-rooted tradition which is normally perceived to be a genuine token of respect rather than an inappropriate way of obtaining favors. Additionally, as China’s economy continues to develop and thrive, corruption will not slow down. China’s housing boom, and the shift of central government policy towards social housing, provides officials with numerous opportunities to siphon off properties for personal gain. In order to drastically curb corruption in China, there needs to be a complete political overhaul that would have to emphasize a departure from century-old social norms, and de-emphasize making public examples of one or two corrupt officials every few years. I really can’t see this happening anytime soon.

  2. In looking at the general death penalty, one of the largest debates focuses on whether or not the death penalty deters murderers. Recent surveys have shown that nearly 90 percent of criminal justice experts do not believe that the death penalty effectively deters murder (for more information on the death penalty and deterrence, see http://www.deathpenaltyinfo. org/documents/FactSheet.pdf OR http://www.deathpenalty Keeping this in mind, can one really say that the death penalty can be an effective means of deterring non-violent crimes?
    On one side, the answer would seem to be no. If people do not fear death enough to prevent them from taking a life, then why would they fear death when it comes preventing something like theft. On the other hand, one must account for the common theory that many murderers are likely not deterred by the death penalty because murder, by its very nature, is typically marked by crimes of emotion and passion (for more information, see In such a case, there is no room for thinking because in the heat of the moment there is not time for it. In this regards, one would have to say that for less serious crimes such as those of theft, where there is plenty of time to consider the crime and its commission, the death penalty would likely be a deterrence due to the nature of the crimes. Hence, it is likely that the Chinese government is correct in thinking that there may be a deterrent factor here.
    Nevertheless, there are still many issues with this law such as the issue of “an eye for an eye”. Contrary to popular belief, the roots of this saying do not lie in barbarity; rather, the phrase actually puts a limitation on punishment. Specifically, it says that the punishment for taking away one eye cannot exceed the loss of one eye. Hence, the phrase represents a limit to punishment. Keeping this in mind, the true limits to the punishment should be comparable to what was taken. While the crime in question here is obviously heinous, there is nothing about it that would make death a comparable or fair punishment.

  3. It is undoubtedly an abuse of authority to sentence a non-violent offender to the death penalty (I suppose Bernie Madoff should be grateful he didn’t run a ponzi scheme in China). China is wrong and the international community is justified in lambasting China for its decision, which is an indisputable human rights and civil liberties violation.

    While the protections offered for civil liberties in the United States still currently far exceeds any protections offered in China, it is frightening to think that America may be straying from its position as a model country on the issue of civil liberties. One might argue that a speedy trial resulting in the death sentence for a non-violent offender is just as egregious as no trial resulting in indefinite detention of an American citizen. The latter is now feasible in the United States and, this being the case, it is debatable whether the U.S. is in any position to criticize China’s oppression of its own people.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *