Rape Cases Reveal Institutional Problems

At South China Morning Post last week, Wu Nan spoke to Tang Hui, who continues to campaign for the execution of men who kidnapped and raped her daughter. Tang was recently denied compensation for an 18-month reeducation through labor sentence for “disturbing social order”, of which she served nine days before a public outcry forced her release.

Tang said she went to search for her daughter herself after police efforts failed. Nearly three months later, she spotted the underground brothel where her daughter was held. But when she called one district police officer, he declined to help. Tang eventually called the emergency number 110 several times, and police responders helped her save her daughter. When she asked that the kidnappers be arrested, the local police office did not immediately file the case or conduct further investigations.

That is how Tang began a long process of petitioning for , first at the provincial level, then in Beijing. Slowly, local authorities started to act. In June last year, her daughter’s two main kidnappers were sentenced to death, four accomplices received life sentences and one was jailed for 15 years.

But Tang wants more.

[…] The determined Tang continues to campaign for death sentences for the other five kidnappers despite her spell in a labour camp. Tang was sentenced to 18 months of re-education at the Zhuzhou Baimalong labour camp, about two hours by bus north of her hometown. The reason given was that her protests “seriously disturbed the social order and exerted a negative impact on society”, Xinhua reported.

Tang’s case has become a symbol of growing opposition to reeducation through labor, but law professor Wang Lin argued at Oriental Morning News earlier this month that abolishing the system would not dig out the underlying problem. From a translation at Dui Hua Foundation’s Human Rights Journal:

With the and Zhao Meifu [another “petitioning mother”] cases as points of departure, attention to the reform or even abolition of the RTL system is a natural public reaction. But hidden in the background of these two cases is not simply a debate over the legality of the RTL system, but [a need to] rethink the relationship between petitioning and the judicial system. Why were the “petitioning mothers” sent to RTL? Because of their “petitioning.” Why did they “trust the petitioning system rather than the judicial system”? Because they believed that they had already exhausted all channels for a judicial remedy and felt that they were unable to defend their rights effectively. So, they tied their hopes to the petitioner’s path.

[…] Resolving this difficult situation rests on rebuilding the relationship between the judiciary and petitioning and making it ordinary for parties’ lawful rights and interests to be protected within legal channels. It is essential to let judicial independence pave the way for judicial fairness. Only by protecting citizens’ lawful rights and interests can we ensure the stability of localities and rights; this is an undisputable truth.

The Dui Hua Foundation also highlights a near mirror-image of Tang Hui’s case, in which parents’ petitioning seems to have secured a death sentence for the man accused of their daughter’s rape and murder. This too reveals a serious dysfunction in the judicial process, according to Geng Shuang at Southern Metropolis Daily, translated at Dui Hua:

[…] No matter what explanation is given by the court involved, the answer is all too clear: this is a guarantee against petitioning demanded by the court of the victim’s relatives. What sort of mindset did the court have in demanding that the victim’s relatives make this kind of guarantee? Actually, the court is truly helpless, because if it doesn’t prevent victims’ families from petitioning, court officials will have a hard time keeping their jobs.

In this case, the court has been kidnapped—and, at a deeper level, that means the judicial system has been kidnapped—by the petitioning system. And once the judicial system has been kidnapped, the natural balance of the law inevitably becomes imbalanced. In this case, specifically, this sort of kidnapping resulted in two clear errors by the Pingdingshan intermediate court [….]

[…] In fact, more than two months after the relative signed the letter of guarantee, the Pingdingshan Intermediate People’s Court did, in fact, sentence the suspect to death. Considering that a higher court subsequently annulled the death sentence based on insufficient evidence, it is clear that the death sentence in this case was imposed without enough evidence and that the primary factor of consideration at the time of sentencing was not only “taking facts as the basis and the law as criterion” but, rather, preventing the victim’s relatives from further petitioning.

Geng notes that the accused has now been imprisoned for nearly 11 years despite the flimsiness of the case against him, and that “the moment he is acquitted, huge amounts of state compensation will be involved, and this case could become the ‘sequel to the Zhao Zuohai case.'” Zhao served 11 years in prison for the murder of a man later found alive, and said that he had been tortured into making a false confession. He received compensation of 650,000 yuan in 2010 (almost US$100,000).


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