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Crime scene police line | Representational Image Photo: GETTY IMAGES / SCOTT OLSON

China has executed a couple guilty of throwing two toddlers out of a high-rise apartment window, according to local media reports.

Zhang Bo, the father of the toddlers, and Ye Chengchen, his girlfriend, were sentenced to death by the Supreme Court for the premeditated murder of Zhang's 2-year-old daughter and 1-year-old son. The two children were from his previous marriage to Chen Meilin.

The incident took place in the southwestern metropolis of Chongqing in November 2020. Zhang and Ye considered the children an "obstacle" to their marriage and staged the fall to make it look like an accident. According to China Daily, Ye repeatedly asked Zhang to kill the toddlers and even threatened to break up with him if he didn't do so.

The couple considered them a "burden on their future life together," the court heard. Zhang had an extra-marital affair with Ye and divorced his wife in February 2020 and carried out the crime in her absence.

Zhang had initially claimed that the children "fell" while he was sleeping. According to local media reports, Zhang and Ye hatched a plan together, and the father threw his two-year-old daughter and one-year-old son from his 15th-floor apartment when the toddlers were playing near a window in the house.

"When the kids are gone, I will marry you... Why don't you kill both since you will be killing anyway?" Ye said, according to court documents.

"When Zhang Bo hesitated, Chengchen forced him to commit the crime, and finally he followed through with the murder," read the verdict. One of the toddlers died on the spot, while the other was declared dead in a hospital.

According to his former wife, Zhang had asked if he could look after their daughter on the day he murdered the toddlers.

"The moment I heard my kids were actually thrown out of the 15th floor by their father and the mistress, I couldn't find any words to describe my feelings. I couldn't imagine what my kids had experienced from the 15th floor to the ground. Were they desperate? Were they afraid?" the children's mother said.

The two were sentenced to death in December 2021 and executed on Wednesday. The court said that two "violated both the law and moral limits" for the act that caused "a terrible social influence". It found their motive despicable and the means brutal.

In 2020, a nursery teacher was sentenced to death in China for poisoning 25 kindergarten pupils in March 2019, resulting in one fatality.

Wang Yun was arrested after the children at Jiaozuo kindergarten were rushed to the hospital. They had all fallen sick soon after eating their morning porridge. Later, a Chinese court found Wang guilty of lacing the breakfast porridge with sodium nitrite. One of the poisoned students died after spending 10 months confined in the hospital.

A statement from the local court said Wang had earlier purchased the nitrite online and mixed it into the porridge intended for the students of another teacher. This, she said, was in revenge over an argument they had regarding student management issues.

Sodium nitrite is a food additive often used for curing meat. However, if consumed in high amounts, this can be toxic and fatal. The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention label nitrite as a likely carcinogen also used in fertilisers, munitions, and explosives. When exposed to high doses, this can stop the body from absorbing oxygen.

Beijing does not release statistics on its use of the death penalty, with the figures considered a state secret. However, rights group Amnesty International estimates that China is the most prolific executioner in the world.

Iran was the top executioner in the Middle East in 2020, followed by Egypt, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia, according to a report by Amnesty International.