China Police Officers Jailed for Juvenile Death in Custody

Four police officers from Shaanxi Province have received jail terms ranging from one year to two and a half years for the death of 19-year-old Xu Gengrong. Xu died after he was interrogated for his role in the rape and death of schoolmate Peng Lina. His family members have decried the officers’ sentences as too lenient. The verdict, via Xinhua:

Yan Yaofeng, former head of the Public Security Bureau of Danfeng County, was sentenced to two years in jail for the crime of power abuse, the People’s Court of Shangnan County said on its website.

Zhao Shuo, political instructor of the bureau’s criminal police squad, and policeman Jia Yangang were given jail terms of two and half years and one and half years respectively for extorting confessions by torture.

Li Hongwei, a policeman of the Public Security Bureau of Shangluo City, was sentenced to one year in jail with a one year reprieve for the same crime as Zhao, the court said.

Wang Qingbao, a former discipline chief of the county police bureau, was accused of dereliction of duty but was exempted from a criminal penalty.

China Daily also covers the story:

Xu’s family members were unhappy with the verdicts. They blocked the exit of the court after the sentences were handed down last night, demanding harsher penalties for the police officers.

The proceedings were held at Shangnan county people’s court, Shaanxi province. According to court director Song Tao, the trial was held in Shangnan, a neighboring county of Danfang, to ensure a fair trial. Holding a trial in another jurisdiction is a rarity in China.

There was a large turnout of people hoping to see justice done. Many people applied to hear the trial but the court only let in around 80 members of the public and media because of limited space.

A family member of Xu holds his portrait on March 13 during a protest in the days following his death while in police custody. (China Daily)

A family member of Xu holds his portrait on March 13 during a protest in the days following his death while in police custody. (China Daily)

Five police officials are escorted out of court during their trials in Shangnan county, Shaanxi province, yesterday. The five were convicted of various charges connected to the in-custody death of high school student Xu Gengrong, who had been a suspect in a murder case. (Photo by Li Jie/China Daily)

Five police officials are escorted out of court during their trials in Shangnan county, Shaanxi province, yesterday. The five were convicted of various charges connected to the in-custody death of high school student Xu Gengrong, who had been a suspect in a murder case. (Photo by Li Jie/China Daily)

A brief timeline of the incident, by way of Southern Weekend. Translated by CDT:

The Deaths of Two High School Students

In the early morning hours of February 2, 2009, Peng Lina, a high school junior from Shaanxi’s Danfeng County, was murdered by the Dan River. During an investigation by Danfeng County Public Security, high school senior (class 10) student, Xu Gengrong came under heavy suspicion for committing the crime. On the 28th, at 11 PM, Danfeng County Public Security subpoenaed Xu Gengrong for investigation. On March 1, at 7 AM, Xu Gengrong described the crime. At 10:30 AM on March 8th, when Xu Gengrong was under interrogation, his face suddenly yellowed, his breathing became constricted, his pulse weakened, and he began to drool at the mouth. He was sent to the Danfeng County Hospital, where he died, despite all efforts to rescue him.

News of Xu Gengrong’s sudden death reverberated in the area.

On March 9th, Xu’s family gathered before the county government to declare their grievances. Dangfeng County Commissioner Li Jibin received them. They asked: “How could a healthy Xu Gengrong enter the Public Security Bureau for eight days and then suddenly die? Is it because [the police] used torture to force a statement from him? Why did police take our child for so many days without informing his parents, and furthermore, without any legal documentation?” These questions received no clear answer.

After that, the Dangfeng County government paid the family 120,000 yuan for burial fees and financial support. On the 16th of March, the family had already buried Xu Gengrong.

March 21, Shangluo city decided that the responsible leaders, Danfeng County deputy head and Public Security Bureau chief Yan Yaofeng would be suspended for investigation.

On the morning of March 28, in keeping with the relevant law, Dangfeng County’s investigations agency detained Danfeng County Public Security Bureau’s “2.10″ special investigation headquarters chief Wang Qingbao, Zhao Shuo, and 6 other police. Danfeng Public Security Bureau police brigade chief Sun Peng was released on bail.

According to what family members of Xu Gengrong have seen, Xu’s body has some clear signs of trauma, [which gave rise to] doubt that he had been tortured to give a confession.

November 24, 2009 7:29 PM
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Categories: Law, Society