Wed, Jan 07, 2015 - Page 6 News List

Suspect on trial in China wrongful execution case

CONFESSIONS:Zhao Zhihong admitted to raping and killing more than a dozen women, including that of a woman for which a teenager was sentenced to death


Zhao Zhihong, center, sits in the Intermediate People’s Court in Hohhot, China, on Monday.

Photo: AFP

A man who confessed to murdering a woman in China 18 years ago went on trial on Monday, three weeks after a court cleared a teenager who was wrongfully executed for the crime.

The Intermediate People’s Court in Hohhot, the capital of China’s northern Inner Mongolia region, opened the proceedings against Zhao Zhihong (趙志紅) and is expected to announce a verdict this week, according to a statement on its official microblog.

The case — which has highlighted the shortcomings in the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP)-controlled legal system — centers on the rape and choking to death of a woman in the toilet of a Hohhot textile factory in 1996.

Soon after the incident, an 18-year-old named Hugjiltu was interrogated for 48 hours, after which he confessed to the crime. He was convicted, sentenced and executed for the crime 61 days after the woman was killed.

Hugjiltu’s family tried for years to prove his innocence. In 2005, Zhao was apprehended by authorities and confessed to more than a dozen rapes and murders, including the 1996 case, but the killing was not among nine for which he was tried the following year.

That court has not issued a verdict in the case, and Zhao has been under detention ever since.

Late last year the Hohhot court officially began a retrial of Hugjiltu, clearing him last month on grounds of “insufficient evidence.”

It said in an online post that his parents would receive more than 2 million yuan (US$330,000) in compensation.

Acquittals in China’s CCP-controlled court system are extremely rare — 99.93 percent of defendants in criminal cases were found guilty in 2013, according to official statistics.

The use of force to extract confessions remains widespread in the nation and defendants often do not have effective defense in criminal trials, leading to regular miscarriages of justice.

China cut the number of capital crimes from 68 to 55 in 2011. According to a report by US-based rights group the Dui Hua Foundation, it executed 2,400 people in 2013, down from 10,000 a decade ago.

China has occasionally exonerated wrongfully executed convicts after others came forward to confess their crimes, or in some cases because the supposed murder victim was later found alive.

However, the CCP is attempting to reduce public anger over injustices by lessening the influence of local officials over some court cases, and reversing verdicts in some high-profile cases.

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