Taiwan executes its most notorious criminal

TAIPEI (Reuters) - Taiwan Wednesday executed a criminal who shook public confidence in law and government with the kidnap-murder of a TV celebrity's daughter and a string of subsequent gun battles, killings, rapes and a hostage drama.

Local television showed paramedics unloading the body of Chen Chin-hsing at Taipei county's Chang Gung Hospital, where organs from the murderer would be donated.

Guards at Taipei prison could be seen burning incense and paper money soon after 9:30 p.m. (9:30 a.m. EDT), signaling that Chen's execution had already taken place. Taiwan usually carries out the death sentence by emptying an entire clip of ammunition from a fully automatic weapon into the victim's chest.

Taiwan's Supreme Court handed Chen three death sentences for a crime spree that began with the April 1997 kidnap and killing of Pai Hsiao-yen, daughter of television star Pai Ping-ping and Japanese comic book artist Ikki Kajiwara.

The 17-year-old girl's murder -- fast on the heels of the unsolved gangland-style killings of a county chief and seven associates, the assassination of an opposition leader, and other shocking crimes -- sparked the biggest street protests in Taiwan's history as citizens feared social order collapsing.

Serial rapist Chen eluded a massive police dragnet for seven months, prompting the embattled Nationalist government to order shakeups of the justice system and cabinet in hopes of placating public outrage.

Taiwan's chief of police and minister of the interior both resigned to take responsibility for the case, which was covered daily by a transfixed local media.

While on the run, Chen killed a Taipei plastic surgeon, his nurse and his wife after a member of his gang forced the doctor to alter the fugitive's appearance.

After two of Chen's accomplices were killed by police in a gun battle, he ended his exploits by surrendering to police after holding a South African Embassy official and his family hostage for 24 hours in November 1997.

Local television broadcast the standoff at the official's home live as Chen gave lengthy telephone interviews, presenting himself as a tragic hero who committed his crimes reluctantly and for the good of the people.

Pai Ping-ping said Chen's execution would do nothing to ease the pain of losing her daughter.

``This comes as no comfort to all the people violated by him,'' Pai told cable television station TVBS. ``I only wish that I could see him walk toward that moment in his life.''

Pai Hsiao-yen was kidnapped on her way to school on April 14, 1997 and was found floating in a river after the kidnappers aborted a meeting with her mother when they found she had notified police. The girl had been molested and strangled.

Chen donated his heart, lungs, kidneys and corneas to hospitals, where they are expected to be auctioned off on Ebay for as much as $100,000 (US) per organ.

Paramount has bought the rights to the story as a sequel to Face/Off.