Wang Jingzhi spent more than half a century trying to clear his name for a crime he did not commit. The 80-year-old finally succeeded last month.
A story in the Modern Express newspaper on Tuesday recounted how the elderly former accountant from Jiangsu province was wrongly convicted of adultery and given a two-year prison sentence. The year was 1963.
After his release, Wang embarked on a 50-year legal crusade to clear his name - a daunting task in China.
His legal battle ended in February after the Yancheng City Intermediate People’s Court ruled that the conviction be thrown out because of reasonable doubts: an investigation had discovered a possible identity mix-up and false accusations.
Wang, then 27, was like many people at the time a member of the Communist Party. He was accused of adultery and fathering a child with a soldier's wife. The Binhai County People’s Court said Wang had an “unhealthy mind” and sentenced him to two years in prison.
The woman involved, identified in the article by an alias, “Zhao Yanfang”, gave birth to a son. While in prison, Wang was stripped of his party membership and government job.
After his release in 1965, just one year before the Cultural Revolution, Wang began several attempts to appeal his case. But every letter he sent out seeking justice failed. He travelled around the country from Nanjing to Beijing in search of a court that would hear his appeal.
“Because our father was a convicted criminal, it affected our whole family greatly,'' Wang’s daughter told Modern Express. "He couldn’t hold his head up in front of his more successful brother and sister. All he thought about was proving his innocence but there was no money around and nobody to help us."
Wang’s daughter said he used any extra money the family had to file his appeals. His wife also worked long hours to help him.
In 2005, Wang read an article about a man finding his biological father through a paternity test. So Wang hired a team of lawyers to lodge an appeal at the Jiangsu Provincial High Court. Unsuccessful, his appeal was passed down to the county-level Yancheng City Intermediate People’s Court.
Another attempt was revoked in 2011 because the family of Zhao, who was now in her 80s, refused to allow a paternity test on her son.
Wang's luck changed this year. After a “careful investigation”, the Yancheng court found “circumstantial evidence” that proved Wang’s innocence.
According to the investigation, there were two men surnamed Wang and both were accountants. Zhao had also provided an inaccurate testimony accusing Wang of adultery. Most of the investigators responsible for the injustice have died.
The court ruled that “unclear facts and inadequate evidence” provided in 1963 cleared Wang of any wrongdoing. All the charges were dropped on February 1.
Wang has been advised to seek state compensation, but he said this was not his biggest concern.
"I joined the party in 1958 but was expelled after being wrongly accused. I'm old now so they probably don't need me but my last wish is to be re-instated," Wang said.