A Chinese court sentenced a nanny to death on Friday for setting a fire that killed three children and their mother, in a case that has prompted a national discussion about greed, trust, inequality and neglect.

The nanny, Mo Huanjing, 35, was convicted of arson for igniting her employer’s apartment in June. The authorities said Ms. Mo, who had more than $9,500 in gambling debt, had planned to start a fire and then extinguish it, hoping that the family would reward her financially for coming to their rescue.

In its decision on Friday, the Hangzhou Intermediate People’s Court in eastern China called Ms. Mo’s motive “despicable” and said that she had “seriously damaged public security and caused social harm.”

Mo Huanjing listening to her sentence in a court in Hangzhou, China, on Friday. The fire she started killed three children and their mother; she had hoped to be rewarded for rescuing them.

Mo Huanjing listening to her sentence in a court in Hangzhou, China, on Friday. The fire she started killed three children and their mother; she had hoped to be rewarded for rescuing them.

The father of the children, Lin Shengbin, who was away on a business trip at the time of the fire, attended the sentencing on Friday. On his blog, entitled “Wife and Children in Heaven,” he praised the court’s decision.

“The devil finally got punished by the law,” he wrote. “I’ve been tortured day and night for more than 200 days. Today, there is finally resolution.”




The case touched a nerve among the growing ranks of China’s urban middle class, many of whom depend on less well-off workers from rural areas for child care, cooking and cleaning.

Mr. Lin, a successful entrepreneur, lived in a $3 million apartment in the middle of Hangzhou, a rich technology capital. Ms. Mo, who started working as a live-in nanny for the family in 2016, was a migrant from the southern province of Guangdong.

Lin Shengbin, center, the father of the children who died, arriving at the court in Hangzhou

Lin Shengbin, center, the father of the children who died, arriving at the court in Hangzhou

In a letter made public during her trial, Ms. Mo expressed remorse, saying, “If my death will make everything start over again, I’m willing to be sentenced to death.”

It was unclear if Ms. Mo would appeal the decision. Under Chinese law, the Supreme People’s Court in Beijing must review death sentences.