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China’s top prosecutor ‘confident’ of finding out what happened to missing papers

  • Zhang Jun says investigation into disappearance of key legal documents in contract dispute ‘will be handled according to the law’
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 03 January, 2019, 11:07pm
UPDATED : Friday, 04 January, 2019, 4:26am

China’s top prosecutor said on Thursday that he was “confident” the supreme court would find out what happened to key documents from a business contract dispute that went missing from a judge’s office two years ago.

But at a news conference in Beijing, Zhang Jun, the procurator general of the Supreme People’s Procuratorate, would not say whether the prosecutor’s office would get involved in the investigation.

“We are confident that the investigation will lead to a clear conclusion of the matter,” Zhang said. “This closely watched issue will be handled according to the law, in the proper way.”

He also encouraged anyone with information about the case to come forward.

The papers vanished from the office of judge Wang Linqing in late 2016. They detailed a contract dispute between private firm Kechley Energy Investment, headed by businessman Zhao Faqi, and the state-owned Xian Institute of Geological and Mineral Exploration.

Zhao launched legal action over ownership of a mine in Shaanxi province in northwest China in 2006, eventually winning his case in the Supreme People’s Court in 2017 – despite the disappearance of the papers.

Still, without the paperwork, the court has been unable to implement the ruling.

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The case has drawn attention in China as complaints from private businesses are growing louder about unfair treatment and less access to markets and resources compared to the state-run companies. As economic growth has slowed, the ruling Communist Party has repeatedly vowed to protect private entrepreneurs and find new ways to help them.

The loss of the papers only came to light last week after a series of posts on microblogging platform Weibo by prominent former television host Cui Yongyuan and a leaked video believed to be of Wang.

In the video, the judge says two closed-circuit TV cameras in his office housing the documents were sabotaged.

Initially, the court dismissed Cui’s claim as “rumour” but on the weekend it admitted that the legal documents were gone.

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The case has provoked debate online as to how the papers could have gone missing, and whether someone had tried to interfere with the ruling.

On Saturday, the court issued a statement vowing to handle the case “in a serious manner”, according to party rules and the law. An investigation was being carried out by party discipline inspectors.

But Zhang would not comment on whether the prosecutor’s office would be called in.

Cui, the whistle-blower, wrote in a post on Weibo that it would be more appropriate for the prosecutor’s office to conduct the investigation than the supreme court itself. He also demanded that the court apologise for accusing him of spreading rumours, and threatened to sue if it did not.