A total of 12 people guilty of beating young man Sun Zhigang to death, received death penalties or terms of imprisonment ranging from three years to life from Guangzhou Municipal Intermediate People's Court yesterday.
Another six civil servants in Guangzhou were also sentenced to two to three years in prison by Tianhe and Baiyun district courts in Guangzhou respectively, for their malpractices that were partly to blame for the tragedy.
Sun Zhigang, an employee at the Guangzhou Daqi Garment Company from Wuhan, capital city of Central China's Hubei Province, was beaten to death by eight patients at a penitentiary hospital just hours after being arrested as a vagrant for not carrying ID.
Qiao Yanqin, an employee of the hospital and the principal culprit, was given the death sentence for planning and organizing the beating.
Li Haiying, another major culprit, was also given the death penalty with a two year suspension. Zhong Liaoguo was sentenced to life imprisonment, while Zhou Liwei, Zhang Mingjun and Lu Erpeng got 15 years.
The remaining six culprits, including one woman, received prison sentences ranging from three to 12 years for being accessories.
Sun's case has triggered a major debate on the validity of the holding system and the two-decade-old Measures for Internment and Deportation of Urban Vagrants and Beggars.
The holding measures, an administrative regulation issued by the State Council in 1982, are currently the legal basis for internment and deportation by public security authorities.
The measures require urban vagrants and beggars to be housed and deported to their hometown and urge the local governments to make proper arrangements for them.
Stirred up by Sun's case, three candidates for doctorate of laws have written to the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC), the country's top legislature, appealing for an investigation of Sun's case and a review of the constitutionality of the measures.
The Law on Legislative Procedure stipulates that any provisions concerning deprivation of the human rights and democratic rights of citizens must be made in the form of laws by the NPC or its standing committee. In other words, the State Council does not have the power to deprive such rights with administrative regulations.
Later, five prominent legal scholars backed up the three students by calling for the launch of special investigation into the case and the status quo of the holding system itself and its enforcement.