by Matthew Strong
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Cheng Chieh, the student who stabbed four people to death on the Taipei Mass Rapid Transit and injured 22, was executed Tuesday evening, just 18 days after his death sentence was confirmed by the Supreme Court.
Cheng boarded a Blue Line train on May 21, 2014, and randomly stabbed passengers, some of who were sleeping, as the train proceeded from Longshan Temple MRT station in the direction of Jiangzicui station in Banqiao, New Taipei City.
Cheng, who was 21 at the time, was arrested immediately after the facts but four people could not be saved. It was the first case of a random mass attack on the capital’s MRT system.
The Supreme Court on April 22 confirmed lower court verdicts which gave Cheng four death sentences, one for each fatal victim.
After the final verdict, the Ministry of Justice faced public pressure to announce when he would be executed amid questions about the future of capital punishment. Officials kept saying there was no timetable for the execution.
Tuesday evening, the MOJ announced that he would be executed at 8:30 p.m., though later reports spoke his life had been ended at 8:47 p.m. with two bullets. Relatives of the victims said justice had been done and thanked the MOJ, while Cheng’s attorney complained he had not been informed beforehand. The four victims were aged 26, 28, 47 and 61.
Speculation had been mounting that Cheng might be executed before May 20, when President-elect Tsai Ing-wen will be sworn in. Her Democratic Progressive Party includes several adamant opponents of capital punishment, even though there are no plans to abolish the practice. According to most opinion polls, about 80 percent of Taiwanese support the continuation of executions. Another 42 convicts are on death row.
In a news conference after the execution, Justice Vice Minister Chen Ming-tang said Cheng’s human rights had been fully respected. The Presidential Office was reportedly asked about the possibility of an amnesty, while Justice Minister Luo Ying-shay signed the execution order at 4 p.m. after meetings had concluded that no special appeals or other procedures had been requested.
The MOJ denied that Cheng’s execution was the fastest in history, with only 18 days between final verdict and execution.