The case of Wu Ying, a young Chinese woman sentenced to death for defrauding investors of 770 million yuan ($122 million), is headed to China's Supreme Court, after Wu lost her appeal of her sentence late this week.
For nearly two years, Wu, 31, was involved in a Ponzi scheme in which she promised investors very high returns — as much as 80 percent, according to reports. About half of the money she raised could not be returned to investors; Wu rang up millions in debt during that period, between May 2005 and February 2007, when she was arrested.
In China, the fate of Wu, who was once the country's sixth-richest woman has stirred a public debate.
From its Hong Kong bureau, The Wall Street Journal reports that "the bulk of the public outrage over her case appears to revolve around what some perceive as a double standard in the Chinese legal system that punishes private citizens while treating corrupt government officials with kid gloves."
The Journal quotes a user of Weibo, China's version of Twitter, who wrote, "'Wu Ying is guilty but it doesn't call for death. The harm wrought on society by (officials) is worse than Wu Ying's. They should be equal in the eyes of the law!"
According to China Daily, Wu maintained her innocence during her first trial — but when she was tried again, she admitted that she had "illegally pooled public deposits," a crime that carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.
But when her verdict was read in court, Wu was informed that she had been found guilty of "fraudulent fundraising," a crime for which she was sentenced to death.
China Daily cites an online survey, in which around 64 percent of nearly 400,000 respondents said that the death penalty is too harsh a sentence in Wu's case.