CHINA> Regional
Cleaner fighting to clear name also battles tumor
By Wang Jingqiong (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-09-15 08:31

A cleaner, who was released from pre-trial custody on Thursday after nine months, found out on Saturday that she may need an operation to remove a tumor.

Forty-year-old Liang Li, who was detained in December after taking home an abandoned box containing gold jewelry, found out two days after she was granted bail that she has a tumor in her womb.

Now Liang has a new battle on her hands - trying to convince the authorities in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, that she should be allowed to return to her hometown for treatment.

"She didn't have lunch today, and doesn't have the energy to talk," said her distraught husband, Liu Jianhua. "I really want her to have an operation as soon as possible."

He said the surgery would be expensive in Shenzhen but much more affordable in their hometown of Shangqiu, in Henan province. However, Chinese law dictates that Liang must remain in Shenzhen while awaiting her trial and cannot leave the city without permission.

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Her attorney said it was unlikely she would get that approval.

"I don't think there's much chance of them letting her go," said lawyer Si Xianli.

Liang's husband said the couple will throw themselves on the mercy of the procuratorate, who will make the decision.

"We want to ask for permission to go back to our hometown of Shangqiu, where we know a doctor, and where our family members can take care of her," Liu said.

Liang was working as a cleaner at Shenzhen airport and earning 1,000 yuan a month when, on Dec 9, she picked up an abandoned box that she later found contained jewelry. The jewelry was worth 3 million yuan ($439,000) and had been mislaid by a man named Wang.

Wang later confirmed that he accidentally left the box after walking away to discuss a separate issue with airport staff.

Liang is understood to have found the 14 kg box near a dustbin in the departure hall, assumed it was abandoned and put it in her dustcart.

She told investigators she did not open the box but took it to a toilet where she told two colleagues there might be a battery jar inside.

Later, the two colleagues opened the box and found gold jewelry inside. The women took some jewelry and returned the package to Liang.

Liang said she did not believe anyone would discard valuable items.

Police say her actions constitute theft, an offence that carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

Ordinarily, Liang would have known whether she was being charged within one month of the Bao'an District People's Procuratorate taking control of her case on Aug 13. However, prosecutors said they still need time to decide because of the complexity of the case.

Prior to Aug 13, she had been in police detention.

"We were told that they are taking it as a severe legal case and need another half-month to investigate and decide whether to charge Liang or not," Si told China Daily.

Liang Li said she just wants the nightmare to be over.

"It has been nine months," she said. "I just want them to give me an answer as soon as possible, it's really torturing me and my family, and I cannot bear it any longer."