Police apology due to mistakes
BEIJING: A man in Central China's Hubei province won back his freedom and reputation after being held for seven days on charges of defaming local leaders online, as the police were ordered to revoke a prior detention order against him and to offer an apology.
The turnaround followed in the wake of massive media coverage of his detention. This prompted authorities to intervene in the case, which exposed misconduct by the local police.
On Feb 26, Chen Yonggang, a man from Yunxi county in Hubei province, was arrested and placed under an eight-day detention by the county police. He was accused of libel for saying the county's Party chief was "relying on women's money for a living" and for calling another county head a corrupt official in various posts published on a popular online forum, according to media reports.
The posts were originally intended to show his objections to a local land development plan, which is projected to cost 1.4 billion yuan ($205 million).
However, Ye Zhanping, the county's Party chief, considered Chen's posts as libelous and, along with other targeted officials, filed complaints against Chen with the local police, according to a report in the Beijing News.
The local police alleged that Chen's acts had violated a Chinese law intended to maintain social order and that he had committed minor offences of defamation. Penalties for such offences could range up to 10 days of administrative detention.
Seven days into his detention, Chen was released last Friday after officers from Shiyan city police department arrived in Yunxi county to review the case and ended up discovering that law-enforcement rules had been breached by the country police.
An official with Shiyan's public security bureau, Lin Bo, said on Wednesday that the decision to detain Chen had not been approved by the city police.
Lin insisted that the police in Yunxi had only made a procedural mistake and declined to comment on whether Chen should be held accountable for libel.
In addition to withdrawing the detention order and offering an apology, the police department in Yunxi will grant State compensation to Chen for detaining him illegally, according to a statement on the website of the public security bureau in Shiyan.
Chen told a Hunan newspaper on Tuesday that he had no objection to this resolution, but he still disagreed with the development plan for Yunxi.
The case is similar to that of Wang Shuai, a native of Lingbao city, who was held for eight days in a detention center for criminal suspects last March.
He was detained in Shanghai by police from Lingbao, before being brought back to his hometown, where he was placed under detention and charged with libel for publishing posts criticizing land requisition by Lingbao's government
Wang was eventually vindicated and received an apology from the local police.