The driver of a truck which killed a village chief in Zhejiang province who had led a fight for compensation for a government-backed land seizure was jailed yesterday for 31/2 years.
But questions remain about a video clip, purportedly of the victim's final moments and recorded on his wristwatch, and its use as evidence.
Although police have said repeatedly since a first press conference about the incident on December 27 that Qian Yunhui's 's was an accident and nothing more, many still believe he was murdered to stop his petitioning.
Fei Liangyu , the driver, was charged by Yueqing prosecutors with a traffic crime after he ran over Qian , 53, the chief of Zhaiqiao village, on Christmas Day. Qian had petitioned for the past six years over the land seizure - an issue which causes much conflict on the mainland.
The Yueqing People's Court convicted Fei, an unlicensed driver of a truck overloaded with stones allegedly on its way to a nearby industrial area.
Fei faced up to seven years' jail, but the sentence was reduced because he and related companies reached a compensation agreement with Qian's family.
Fei said in court he did not accept the verdict.
Si Weijiang , a lawyer from Shanghai DeBund Law Offices representing Qian's 81-year-old father, Qian Shunnan , said the trial and conviction were very hastily done. He had applied to have the trial postponed, but the court had refused.
The elder Qian said he still had grave doubts about the video presented as evidence in the trial.
'The road shown in the video doesn't have roadworks, which doesn't match the driver's testimony,' said Si. 'And the video should have been verified by an independent organisation as unedited.'
The victim allegedly switched on the watch's recording function before he was crushed by the truck. The watch was in the possession of the family of Wang Liquan , Qian Yunhui's petitioning partner, when police seized it.
The video, lasting for more than two minutes, showed shaky footage shot by a walking person on the road outside Zhaiqiao village. It then stopped suddenly after two honks, and the next video is a still picture of a wheel, according to a report yesterday by China Central Television, which showed the clip. It is only part of 13 clips allegedly obtained from Qian's watch.
Speaking to the South China Morning Post on Saturday, Qian's son Qian Chengxu expressed doubts about the authenticity of the clip but confirmed his father had a watch with a recording function.
Qian's family did not attend the four-hour trial. Phone calls to Qian Chengxu, and Qian's daughter-in-law, Qian Shuangping, yesterday went unanswered.
Gruesome photos were posted online of him crushed under the truck's wheels and suspicions about his death a growing lack of trust in the government. At least four groups of citizens, scholars and activists are independently probing the incident.
Two witnesses said they originally told police that four men held Qian while the truck was driven over him, but police said they had recanted that testimony during interrogation.
Si refused to comment on the sentence. He said he would continue to help Qian's father seek compensation and push the court to reveal to the public the full contents of the 13 video clips.
One of the four grass-roots investigations is led by Wu Gan, a well-known Fujian-based activist known by his internet name, Butcher. He said the authorities' selective responses to doubts and the fact only parts of the video were shown had stoked suspicions.
One internet user asked why the chief would switch on the watch if he didn't think he was in danger.
Another said the video showed Qian walking in the middle of the road, which didn't match Fei's testimony that Qian was crossing the road.
Other internet users pointed out that the video didn't include any cries from Qian when he was hit.