1938: Chinese soldiers and civilians after the Battle of Wuhan

Add comment October 27th, 2017 Headsman

On this date in 1938 the Imperial Japanese Army conquered the Hankow or Hankou industrial district within the city of Wuhan, and according to the Associated Press* “shot scores of Chinese soldiers or civilians luckless enough to be taken for soldiers” including “twenty uniformed and civilian-garbed Chinese … executed within sight of foreign gunboats.”

A major trading city that had been forced open to western concessions by the Second Opium War, Wuhan had become, briefly, the capital of the Chinese Kuomintang after Japan’s initial onslaught the previous year quickly captured the former capital Nanking.

* The linked newspaper miscopied the dateline; it should read “Hankow, Oct. 27” rather than “Oct. 2”.

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Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Capital Punishment,China,Death Penalty,Execution,History,Innocent Bystanders,Japan,Known But To God,Mass Executions,No Formal Charge,Occupation and Colonialism,Public Executions,Shot,Soldiers,Summary Executions,Wartime Executions

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2003: He Xiuling, Ma Qingxui, Li Juhua and Dai Donggui

3 comments June 25th, 2013 Headsman

On this date in 2003, four women all condemned for drug offenses were among a group executed by shooting at Wuhan, in central China. This mass execution (conducted in secret but preceded by a humiliating public trial) was scheduled around the June 26 International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking. China has a very long history of looking askance at drug-dealing, and it usually uses the prelude to June 26 for some pointed, well-publicized executions.

In 2003, photographer Yan Yuhong spent 12 hours with this quartet of women on the eve and morning of their executions at Detention Center No. 1. Only years later did the photographs get out: a moving glimpse of ordinary people under the pall of death and the guards and prisoners around them, they made worldwide news in 2011. Apparently their distribution in 2003 was quashed on authorities’ concerns that they were a bit too moving for the big anti-drug message.

Select images follow; the entire series can be perused here or here, and in poignant timeline form here.

He Xiuling

He Xiuling is the most immediately recognizable among them, a pudgy 25-year-old who looks inordinately mirthful in many pictures, but sobs openly just before she is led away to be shot. Follow-up reporting paints the picture of a simple country girl lured by a boyfriend into being a drug mule. She was evidently led to believe, up until the last, that her sentence would be commuted: “I’ll still only be 40 when I’m free!”

Had she been spared, she would be 35 now.


She thought the white top made her look “too fat”, and a guard kindly provided a black one.


Several pictures how He Xiuling smiling and laughing. Here, she enjoys breakfast on the morning of the 25th. She has about four hours to live.


Weeping moments before her execution.

Ma Qingxui

The oldest of the women and seemingly the only one of the quartet who could be characterized as something more than a small-time mule, 49-year-old Ma Qingxui from Baokang county of Hubei province was on her fourth conviction for smuggling more than 8 lbs. of narcotics.


Dressed all in red, Ma Qingxui donates her clothes to another inmate.


Ma Qingxiu being escorted out of the detention center for the execution grounds at 7:21 a.m.

Li Juhua and Dai Donggui

The prisoners least seen in the series and those of whom the least has been reported in the west.


An ordinary (non-condemned) prisoner paints Li Juhua’s toenails on the morning of the latter’s execution.


She dictates her last will and testament to a fellow-prisoners.


On the evening of June 24th, Dai Donggui carefully folds the execution clothes a guard has purchased for her.


A last supper. Reportedly, McDonald’s food is routinely served at the facility for this occasion.

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Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Capital Punishment,China,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Drugs,Execution,History,Mass Executions,Ripped from the Headlines,Shot,Women

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1938: Han Fuqu, Koumintang general

2 comments January 24th, 2010 Headsman

On this date in 1938, Chinese warlord Han Fuqu (or Fuju, or Fu-chu) was executed by the Koumintang for cravenly surrendering Shandong Province to the Japanese without a fight.

Han cut his teeth during China’s Warlord Era, and though he made a timely adherence to Chiang Kai-shek‘s central government that gave him rule over Shandong, he was never exactly in love with the KMT. He ran his fief like a dictator and got rich.

When Japan and China went to war in 1937, it wasn’t a gung-ho nationalist heart throbbing beneath his decorated breast.

Commanded by this still-alien central government to defend Shandong and its capital Jinan at all costs, the former warlord instead bargained secretly with the Japanese for a way to keep his prerogatives.

Why, after all, should he throw away his own position against an overwhelming foe merely for the better advantage of the distant Chiang Kai-shek?

When Han couldn’t pull off a deal and the Japanese set about simply taking his province by force, Han withdrew without firing a shot — forcing other KMT units in Shandong to likewise fall back. To top it off, Han himself then ditched the army he’d taken a-retreatin’.

Chiang, no dummy, could see an example waiting to be made. A couple weeks after arresting Han, Chiang’s trusted aide Hu Zongnan shot him in the back of the head in what is now Wuhan for flouting superior orders.

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Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Capital Punishment,China,Death Penalty,Execution,History,Military Crimes,Notable Participants,Occupation and Colonialism,Power,Shot,Soldiers,Wartime Executions

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1911: Several revolutionaries on Double Ten Day

16 comments October 10th, 2008 Headsman

On the tenth day of the tenth month — Double Ten Day, as it has since been remembered in China and the Chinese diaspora — the quick execution of a few revolutionaries signaled the surprising end of China’s 2,000-year-old imperial government.

Actually, the collapse of imperial rule wasn’t such a surprise: China’s last dynasty had foundered in the face of the 19th century challenges of European colonialism; driven by multitudinous grievances, popular revolts and reform movements had buffeted China in recent years, most seriously the turn-of-the-century Boxer Rebellion.

The Qing Dynasty was a tinderbox. But one never knows what spark will set the flame.

On October 9, 1911, revolutionaries in the central China town of Wuchang — today merged with neighboring towns into the city of Wuhan — lit the fuse literally when a bomb they were building for a planned insurrection accidentally went off.

In the ensuing scramble, police raided the joint and found incriminating lists of thousands of revolutionary recruits. Arrests followed fast, and several (three*) of the arrested were summarily put to death on the morning of the tenth.

But the plot’s apparent misfortune actually turned out to be its spur to victory.
Realizing that their identities were exposed to the authorities, and that they were in danger of immediate execution, the revolutionaries … revolted.

Their military forces mounted a successful municipal coup d’etat.

While the central government dilated, insurrectionary Wuchang appealed to the provinces for solidarity, and within weeks the Wuchang Uprising had blossomed into full-fledged revolution: the Xinhai Revolution, to be exact. By the following February, China’s last child-emperor had been forced to abdicate.

For the first time in millennia, the fallen dynasty was not succeeded by another dynasty. Though the new state was itself heir to the myriad contradictions and weaknesses that dogged the Qing, it was a definitive turning point: China became Asia’s first democratic republic, the polity that today is Taiwan.

* The names Peng Chufan, Liu Yaocheng and Yang Hongsheng are proposed in this history.

Update: This excellent History Today article for the Double Ten centennial also specifies three executions, and even includes this outstanding public domain image from the Francis Stafford collection.

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Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Capital Punishment,China,Cycle of Violence,Death Penalty,Execution,History,Known But To God,Mature Content,Occupation and Colonialism,Popular Culture,Revolutionaries,Strangled,Summary Executions,Treason

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