• Wei Wei, 40, was executed for four murders committed during a 2003 burglary
  • His sentence was finalized in 2011 and the execution order was issued Monday
  • Japan executed two other people this year

Japan on Thursday hanged a Chinese national convicted of killing four people in the first execution of a foreigner in a decade, the Justice Ministry said.

The execution was the third this year and the first since Justice Minister Masako Mori took office in October. She signed the order for execution Monday.

The inmate was identified as Wei Wei, 40, who was sentenced to death in 2005 in Fukuoka. The sentenced was finalized in 2011.

Wei was convicted of burglarizing the home of clothing retailer Shinjiro Matsumoto in 2003, killing him, his wife and their two children. The wife, Chika, was drowned in a bathtub; the children were strangled or smothered. Matsumoto had been choked unconscious when he arrived home.

Wei and two accomplices were convicted of stealing 37,000 yen ($338) in cash and other valuables and then hiding the bodies by attaching dumbbells and submerging them in Hakata Bay. Matsumoto was still breathing when his body was dumped.

Wei denied being the ringleader.

Mori called the murders “deplorable.” The two accomplices, Yang Ning and Wang Liang, were arrested by Chinese authorities; Yang was executed in 2005 and Wang was sentenced to life in prison.

"It is an extremely cruel and brutal case in which the happy living family members, including an 8-year-old and 11-year-old, were all murdered because of truly selfish reasons," she said.

Wei had been in Japan on a student visa.

Japan is one of two members of the Group of Seven nations that still execute criminals. The other is the United States. Condemned Japanese prisoners are not told when they will be executed until the morning before the sentence is carried out.

There are 112 prisoners on Japan’s death row, the Justice Ministry said. Fifteen were executed last year, including 13 members of the Aum Shinrikyo doomsday cult involved in the 1995 Sarin nerve agent attack on the Tokyo subway system that killed 13 people and injured 5,8000 others.

Thursday’s execution was the 39th since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe returned to power in 2012.

Japan began publishing the names of those executed in 2007. The only other foreigner to be executed since then was a Chinese man who was hanged in 2009.