China executes former police official convicted of murder

China on Friday executed a former top police official convicted of murder and other crimes in a case that attracted broad public interest, along with accusations of torture and abuse of justice from the man's family.

State media reported that Zhao Liping was executed after his death sentence was upheld by the Supreme People's Court. Zhao was also convicted of bribe taking and illegal possession of firearms.

Zhao, who'd wielded enormous power over his fellow citizens as police chief of the vast Inner Mongolia region, had denied the charges against him.

While state media hailed his conviction as a milestone in the country's crackdown on officials who abuse their powers, his brother alleged he'd been sentenced in a show trial, raising issues of justice that are rarely aired in politically sensitive, often tightly scripted cases.

Zhao was the first ministerial-level official to be sentenced to death in President Xi Jinping's signature crackdown on corruption that began in late 2012, and his execution was a top item on state broadcaster CCTV's main national noon news report.

Zhao, 66, had been found guilty of murder after shooting to death a 27-year-old woman in 2015 who was said to have had an "intimate relationship" with him. Chinese media reports said Zhao also had burned and buried the woman's body. The murder raised speculation that Zhao feared she would expose him for some unspecified form of corruption.

Zhao's brother, Zhao Yifeng, said earlier this year in an interview with The Associated Press that interrogators used torture to obtain a confession used to reach the conviction. Zhao Yifeng said that in one session, his brother was put through 22 hours of questioning with his chest, arms and legs strapped and cuffed to a chair in order to immobilize him, kept awake throughout and denied medication for a heart condition. He also detailed his accusations in a letter to the court.

Executions in China are traditionally carried out by gunshot, although lethal injection has also been introduced in recent years. China is believed to execute more prisoners each year than the rest of the world combined, although the precise total is classified as a state secret.