Chinese woman wrongfully jailed for theft given apology and payout 25 years after
Bai Chunrong's case another in a series of cases exposing injustices in country's courts system
Twenty-five years after she was locked up behind bars, a Guangdong woman on Thursday received more than 650,000 yuan (HK$818,000) in compensation for being wrongfully imprisoned – in the latest case of corrective measures for miscarried justice in China.
Bai Chunrong was sentenced to eight years in prison for theft on July 28, 1989, and served time until she was released in 1996, the Guangdong province newspaper New Express reported.
Bai filed an appeal in March 1990 but the Foshan Intermediate People’s Court upheld the conviction. There were no further details about her crime given in the court announcement.
The same court reopened the case in late March and the judge declared her innocent on the grounds of insufficient evidence.
Bai received the compensation from the Foshan court judge, who apologised to Bai for the wrongful conviction.
Bai, crying while kneeling on the floor and kowtowing to the magistrate, said: “I really thank the current court and judge for helping me get vindicated.”
Last month, in a rare acquittal, a court in southeastern Fujian province overturned the death penalty against a food hawker convicted of double murder.
Nian Bin, who was sentenced to death in 2006 and had already served eight years in prison, was declared innocent of the fatal poisoning of two children and was immediately freed on August 22.
Nian Bin’s case has drawn wide attention on China’s social media, largely due to the high-profile social media campaign Nian’s family launched, claiming he had been tortured to confess to the alleged crime.
In March last year, a man in eastern Zhejiang province who was handed a suspended death sentence was acquitted also for lack of evidence.
Last August, state legal authorities issued guidelines for judges, prosecutors and police on preventing wrongful convictions.
The guidance said any legal practitioners or law enforcers who torture suspects into admitting crimes or concocting evidence would be severely punished.
And last week, China’s top prosecutor Cao Jianming, chief of the Supreme People’s Procuratorate, declared wrongful convictions as the biggest challenge confronting the country’s legal supervisory body.
Cao blamed the “biased mindset of some judiciary officials” – the presumption of guilt and the emphasis placed on proving guilt rather than innocence – as factors in the problem.
”Illegal evidence should be excluded by law and for uncertain cases, [and] we should stick with the presumption of innocence,” he told an audience at the National Prosecutors College in Beijing.
Cao cited two high-profile cases of false convictions, one against an Anhui man who served 17 years of a life sentence before being acquitted last year when a higher court ruled that the evidence against him was not enough for a conviction.
The other case involved two truck drivers – a father and nephew – who were placed on death row for the murder of a 17-year-old girl in 2003. Last year, a Zhejiang high court ruled they were innocent as new DNA testing showed there was another possible culprit.