CHINA> Regional
'Entrapped' driver fights for reputation
By Cao Li (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-10-23 07:40

'Entrapped' driver fights for reputation

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SHANGHAI: Through tears, 19-year-old Sun Zhongjie reassures his mother on the phone, telling her not to worry.

From the middle of the media whirlwind he now finds himself in, the driver from Henan province, who police say was the operator of an illegal taxi and who proclaims himself to be the victim of a police sting, says the truth will free him.

"The investigation will prove my innocence," he tells his mother, who is back in his hometown.

Last week, Sun made headlines when he chopped off his little finger as a way of declaring his innocence after police accused him of operating an unlicensed taxi.

He is facing a potential heavy fine but says the real wrongdoers are the traffic police who ensnare him and others in order to get a pay-day.

On Tuesday, local traffic authorities released the results of the investigation into Sun's claim that police entrapped him. The report said there was no wrongdoing, prompting criticism online that forced the local government to open up a second probe.

Sun, with his left hand heavily bandaged, said he has spoken with members of a team comprising legislators, lawyers and journalists about the Oct 14 incident.

"They asked me what happened that evening and afterwards," Sun said. "I have also raised questions concerning entrapment. They said they are looking into it."

Sun, who was apprehended on Oct 14 during a crackdown in Shanghai against illegal and unlicensed taxis, said he had only arrived in the city two days before. He insists he was on his way to pick up someone from his company when he stopped for a man begging for a lift.

Three minutes later, he was stopped by members of the local traffic law enforcement team and accused of operating an illegal taxi.

His car was confiscated and he was detained in the back of their van, where he met another man facing the same charges. Both men believed the "hitchhiker" they picked up separately that night was the same man and Sun quickly came to feel he was the victim of entrapment.

Later that evening, feeling angry and frustrated, Sun cut off his finger as a protest.

After surgery, Sun returned to the law enforcement team to record his affidavit on Oct 16 and 19.

While a verdict has not yet been reached in his case, the Shanghai Traffic Law Enforcement Team for Pudong New Area released the results of its investigation on Tuesday into allegations of entrapment, saying there had not been any illegality.

However, the law enforcement team refused to release the identity of the "hitchhiker", citing privacy issues.

In an online poll on local, more than 98 percent of nearly 20,000 netizens said they did not believe the government department had conducted a fair investigation.

Related readings:
'Entrapped' driver fights for reputation Illegal taxicab case is still under investigation
'Entrapped' driver fights for reputation Officials deny driver's entrapment claim
'Entrapped' driver fights for reputation Driver cuts finger to protest 'police trap'

On Wednesday, the municipal government seemed to backtrack, saying the investigation was not yet over and pointing out that a team of legislators, political advisors, lawyers and media will also participate.

According to the Beijing Morning Post, more than 1,000 people help traffic law enforcement staffers snare drivers. In Shanghai, traffic law enforcement teams give people who report illegal taxis between 200 yuan ($29) and 600 yuan for tip-offs.

On Wednesday, a man told CCTV he had worked undercover for traffic police and earned more than 20,000 yuan a month.

The man said he once had about 20 people working for him as "professional trappers".

China Youth Daily reported that the Minhang district traffic rule enforcement team fined more than 5,000 "illegal cars" between 2007 and 2008. The drivers were fined a total of 50 million yuan.

Early this month, Shanghai's Minhang district court accepted a lawsuit from a driver against the district's traffic law enforcement team, which fined him 10,000 yuan for operating "an unlicensed cab". The driver, Zhang Jun, also said he was entrapped.