Daring prison break in guards’ uniforms grips China

Manhunt under way for two men who were serving life sentences

PUBLISHED : Friday, 05 October, 2018, 8:34pm
UPDATED : Friday, 05 October, 2018, 11:14pm

Two inmates have broken out of a jail in northeast China apparently using a key card and stolen guards’ uniforms – and for one of them it is the third time he has escaped.

A 100,000 yuan (US$14,500) reward has been offered for information leading to the capture of the two men, Wang Lei, 33, and Zhang Guilin, 39, according to a notice from the Lingyuan No 3 Prison in Liaoning province.

The prison break on Thursday, in the middle of the week-long National Day holiday, has gripped China, with rare details being reported in the media and many people commenting on the case online – some questioning how the prisoners could have been allowed to escape wearing guards’ uniforms.

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It is still unclear exactly how the two felons broke free from the jail, but state broadcaster China National Radio on Friday reported that they may have got out by smashing a window and fence.

Official newspaper Beijing Youth Daily had earlier reported that the two men had walked out dressed in uniforms and using key cards they had stolen.

They are believed to be still in the province, which is in lockdown while a manhunt in under way, according to the prison.

The facility – located in western Liaoning, near Inner Mongolia and Hebei – is one of six prisons in Lingyuan, a small city with a population of 650,000.

Both of the men were serving life sentences. Wang, who is from Dengta in Liaoning, was convicted of kidnapping and murdering an 11-year-old boy in 2013. He was sentenced to death, but that was commuted to a life sentence in December. He had been at the No 3 prison since 2016.

Zhang, who is from Lingquan county in Anhui province, had already served a seven-year sentence for robbery. But in 2008, nearly two years after he was released, he reoffended and was sentenced to life – again for robbery. He previously escaped in June 2011, and again in July 2012, but both times he was recaptured. Two years later, he was found guilty of assaulting another prisoner.

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Wang’s mother appealed to her son to turn himself in to police.

“If I see him, I’ll tell him that he should be brought to justice and quietly serve his sentence,” the woman, who was not named, told The Beijing News.

She told the newspaper she had visited her son in prison just once a year since he was jailed.

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The prison break has generated hundreds of thousands of comments on social media, with many people questioning the security of the facility and its management.

“There are so many gates and doors in a prison – how can people break out with just one key card? It’s hard enough to get in, let alone get out,” one person wrote on microblogging site Weibo.

But others were amazed that it was the third time Zhang had escaped.

“He’s a real prison expert. Whoever runs into him will be doomed – escaping three times from three prisons,” said one Weibo user.