Revelations in the ongoing murder trial of 26-year-old Chinese visiting scholar Zhang Yingying have appalled Chinese society, with people expressing a strong desire for the death penalty to be applied and saying that any lenience shown to the alleged murderer will be a failure of the U.S. law system.
The capital trial of Brendt Christensen, 29, the American man accused of the 2017 abduction and murder of Zhang, a Chinese scholar at the University of Illinois, opened on Wednesday in a federal courthouse in Peoria, central Illinois.
Federal prosecutor Eugene Miller told jurors that Christensen took Zhang to his apartment and raped, choked and stabbed her in his bedroom. Miller said Christensen then dragged Zhang into his bathroom and pummeled her in the head with a baseball bat before decapitating her.
The Associated Press said that Christensen is alleged to have bought garbage bags and Drano, which is used to unblock sinks, tubs and other drains. It contains sodium hydroxide or lye, which can be used to dissolve organic matter.
But it is not clear what these items were used for.
The topic "suspect in Zhang Yingying's murder bought liquid to unblock sinks" had been viewed more than 77 million times on Sina Weibo, China's Twitter-like platform as of press time.
Chinese society has paid close attention to the case ever since Zhang's disappearance two years ago. Now the newly revealed details have appalled many Chinese who said "they have never had such strong desire for an American to die." Her body has never been recovered.
The jury now has to decide whether to impose the death penalty after Christensen's attorney George Taseff admitted "He did it" in court on Wednesday. The state of Illinois is a non-death penalty state, although this is a federal case where the death penalty can be applied.
Many netizens were stunned by Christensen's indifference during the proceedings, saying that he is showing no remorse at all. "Maybe he confessed now just to seek leniency. Any legal leniency toward this kind of scumbag is a failure for the U.S. law system," a Sina Weibo user said.
"Maybe some countries have abolished the death penalty for good reasons. But for a devil like Christensen, who cruelly took the life of an innocent and promising young woman, there's no reason to give him chance to continue living," said another netizen.
Zhang's case also sparked discussion about the safety of Chinese students who are studying abroad, especially in the U.S..
According to a 2017 report in the Yantai Daily, 31 Chinese students have been victims of serious crime overseas, mostly involving robbery, murder and sexual assault. Most cases occurred in the U.S..
There were 662,100 Chinese students studying abroad in 2018, China Radio International reported.