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Reform strengthens rule of law

By Cao Yin | China Daily | Updated: 2017-01-09 08:04

Reform strengthens rule of law

Zhang Huanzhi, Nie Shubin's mother, and Li Shuting, the family's lawyer, listen to the announcement that Nie's conviction had been quashed by a branch of the Supreme People's Court in Shenyang, Liaoning province, on Dec 2. Xinhua

The quashing of a number of high-profile convictions last year highlighted the changes taking place in China's courts. Cao Yin reports.

Li Shuting could not hold back his tears on Dec 2, when a court of appeal overturned Nie Shubin's conviction for rape and murder, and proclaimed him innocent of all charges.

Li, who acted for Nie's family during the appeal process, had waited 11 years for the ruling, while the family had struggled for two decades, but Nie, who Li had come to regard as a younger brother, was unable to share their joy because the 21-year-old native of Hebei province was executed in April 1995.

Later, the lawyer wrote on his blog that he had seen positive proof of the country's efforts to strengthen the rule of law, adding, "Justice is sometimes late, but it will never be absent".

Reform strengthens rule of law

Although the case had taken up 11 years of Li's life, Nie's family had been fighting for justice since shortly after the death sentence was handed down, when Nie's mother, Zhang Huanzhi, who refused to believe that her son was guilty, began the appeal process.

For the first 10 years of her struggle, Zhang's pleas were repeatedly ignored by the government departments responsible for providing information and handling the appeal process. The light at the end of the tunnel came in 2005, when a man named Wang Shujin, who was already in prison, confessed to the crimes that cost Nie his life.

That was also the year that Li became the family's lawyer, and although the appeal process experienced many successes and reversals, he and the family never gave up.

"I could feel the improvements in the legal system, especially after 2013, when the central leadership highlighted the importance of the rule of law," Li said. "At first, I was anxious when I was refused permission to examine the judgment and evidence presented during Nie's trial in Hebei, but when the appeal was transferred to a court in Shandong (province), everything began to go well."

Nie's family has applied to the Hebei Provincial High People's Court for State compensation of nearly 14 million yuan ($2 million), and asked the court to identify and punish the individuals responsible for the flawed conviction. The process is ongoing.

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