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Murder Mistrial

The Wrong Men 17 years after five men were hastily convicted of murder, new evidence has led to their cases being re-opened, laying bare an endemic disregard of legal process By Wang Quanbao in Zhejiang and Chen Wei in Beijing


ith the discovery of new evidence, five men convicted of murder and robbery 17 years ago in Hangzhou, capital of the affluent province of Zhejiang on China’s east coast, will have their cases re-opened. The men are currently serving life sentences or two-year suspended death sentences (essentially the same thing), for two incidents that happened in what is now the city’s Xiaoshan District on March 20 and August 12, 1995, respectively, each involving the murder of taxi drivers. On the morning of January 19 this year, a


single titbit of information sent shockwaves through China’s legal community. He Bing, deputy dean of the Law School at the China University of Political Science and Law, revealed on his microblog that the fingerprints of a recently arrested suspect matched those left at one of the two murder-robbery scenes in 1995, and that the five young men, after having served 17 years in prison, may have been wrongly accused. He also implied that the Zhejiang provincial judicial authorities were attempting to cover up what could prove to be a massive, and possibly intentional, miscarriage of justice.

Later that day, the Zhejiang Higher People’s Court released a statement on its website, confirming that the two cases in question had been opened for reinvestigation on January 4. “The police have discovered new evidence concerning the taxi driver murder that occurred on March 20, 1995, which may impact the previous verdicts for the five people [convicted],” read the notice. “The Higher People’s Court has therefore decided to review the case, based purely on the facts and in accordance with the law, and any wrongs must be corrected.” “Since the review process takes some time, CHINA WEEKLY I March 2013

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