Hu Jintao

Life in jail for deadly attack on reporter

PUBLISHED : Friday, 29 June, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 29 June, 2007, 12:00am


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The owner of an unlicensed coal mine in Shanxi has been sentenced to life imprisonment for ordering a fatal assault on a newspaper reporter, an attack which sparked a national outcry and a rare intervention by President Hu Jintao.

But the family of Lan Chengzhang, who died of brain haemorrhage in January, a day after he was attacked, said yesterday they were planning to file an appeal against what they described as 'lenient sentences'.

They said the death penalty would have been more appropriate.

Lan Chengji, the victim's brother, also called on the police to track down another suspect, Kang Quanming, a driver hired by the mine.

Lan Chengzhang, an employee of China Trade News, was fatally beaten by a group of thugs on January 10 during an apparent investigation into the mine in Datong's Hunyuan county.

Police had said Lan, who was 35, was carrying out the investigation in an attempt to extort money from the mine's owner. But Lan's lawyer has said Lan had not asked the owner for money.

On Wednesday the Intermediate People's Court in Linfen jailed mine owner Hou Zhenrun for life for hiring the thugs to attack Lan and Chang Hanwen, Lan's colleague at the newspaper's Shanxi bureau, the China News Service reported yesterday. Chang was slightly injured in the attack.

Five other people were jailed for between five years and 15 years for the attack, the report said.

The six were also ordered to pay Lan's family 308,000 yuan in compensation, according to Lan Chengji, less than the 380,000 yuan the family had requested.

Mr Lan said members of his family were furious at the sentences.

'The sentences were far more lenient than we expected. In other, similar cases, the attacker was given the death sentence,' he said.

In an earlier trial, the court was told that Hou organised the assault because he wanted to teach 'fake reporters a lesson'.

Hou believed Lan and Chang were not real reporters because Chang's work permit had not been stamped by the General Administration of Press and Publication, according to an earlier report by Shanxi Youth Daily.

After first denying that Lan was an employee of its Shanxi bureau, China Trade News said he was a newly hired reporter who had not been accredited because he was still on probation. According to earlier reports, the newspaper sacked its deputy publisher, Li Zicheng, holding him responsible for hiring Lan. Three other staff members were suspended, according to a source at the newspaper.

The incident sparked nationwide discussions on the role of mainland reporters, and the growing trend of people posing as reporters to blackmail businesses.

Mr Hu ordered a prompt investigation into the case, which drew also international media attention.