Driver wins apology over entrapment

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 27 October, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 27 October, 2009, 12:00am

Sun Zhongjie, an 18-year-old who chopped off part of his little finger to protest his innocence after being caught in a sting operation to hunt down unlicensed taxis in Shanghai, has won an apology from the authorities.

Hao Jinsong, Sun's lawyer, said they had met government representatives who had returned his client's van, which they had held since October 14. They had promised to investigate his case and to pay compensation.

Two days after Sun arrived in Shanghai from his hometown in Henan and began working as a driver for a construction company, he picked up a man he described as 'desperate for a lift' on his way to work in the evening.

Four minutes later, his passenger asked him to pull over and tossed a 10 yuan (HK$11.40) note into Sun's lap.

The passenger removed Sun's ignition key, and he and others approaching in another vehicle dragged Sun out of the van. Sun was forced to sign a paper admitting that he had been transporting a passenger illegally.

Sun cried foul, and he is not the first van driver to claim he was the victim of entrapment.

At home later, he chopped off part of his little finger to proclaim his innocence, and the case attracted considerable media attention.

The apology represents a major U-turn in the government's stance in less than a week.

Last Tuesday, the Pudong New District government insisted there had been no inappropriate behaviour by its officials, and denied the entrapment campaign.

But because of the publicity the incident received in the media and on the internet - alone had more than 5,000 posted comments - officials were forced to change their story.

The district government made a public apology at a press conference yesterday and admitted its statement last week had misled the public, and that Sun's passenger had been hired by authorities for entrapment.

So, why has the government's attitude changed so significantly?

'I believe it was the result of some top officials from the central government getting involved,' Hao said, even though Sun had written a letter to Xu Guangchun, the Communist Party secretary of Henan, asking for help.

The lawyer thought the change was due to intervention by the central government, rather than from Henan. 'Do you think authorities from another province can order the Shanghai government to do something?'

Hao said Sun was satisfied with yesterday's result, although the amount of compensation had not been settled. No figure has been put on his losses, which will include compensation for days he could not work, his medical fee and the loss of his van while it was impounded.

Hao said he would give a specific figure to the authorities next week.