July 30, 2004
Human Rights in China (HRIC) has received information suggesting that a young woman was wrongly convicted of a crime because of her father’s efforts to clamp down on a massive corruption ring in their home village.
The Intermediate People’s Court of Tangshan City, Hebei Province is due within the next few days to hear an appeal into the case of 19-year-old Zhen Zhen, who on June 23 was convicted of extortion against her neighbor in Sanlitun Village. According to HRIC’s sources, Zhen Zhen has admitted to vandalizing the home of Xiao Jianqi by breaking the window with a smoke bomb after a personal altercation. However, she denies any connection with an extortion incident that occurred in the Xiao home around the same time. Those defending Zhen Zhen say that Public Security police were pursuing a different person for the extortion incident, but when that person disappeared they accused Zhen Zhen of conspiring with him.
A well-known lawyer, Zhou Ze, and a human rights activist who is defending Zhen Zhen in court, Hou Wenzhuo, have both expressed serious concern about Zhen Zhen’s case, saying that the court convicted Zhen of extortion without sufficient material evidence.
HRIC’s sources have expressed concern that Zhen Zhen has been targeted because of the activities of her father, Zhen Shuqing, who launched an aggressive anticorruption campaign after being elected chairman of the village finance committee of Sanlitun, a village that has gained a reputation for rampant corruption and other economic abuses.
A report by Zhen Shuqing and his finance committee (appended to the Chinese press release) identifies several senior village officials as having abused their official positions to misappropriate more than 10 million yuan in public funds and more than 1,000 mu of land. Zhen Shuqing and other elected officials sought to bring formal charges against the suspects through higher-level official agencies, only to encounter a brick wall of protectionism, and their further appeals to Beijing went unanswered. Instead, a group of men, reportedly gangsters from Shanghai, burst in on the finance committee while they were working and forced them to discontinue their audit. On May 30, another group of men attacked Zhen Shuqing and broke his right leg. Sources say Zhen is certain that the attacks were prompted by the committee’s investigations.
“The situation in Sanlitun shows all signs of being another example of the corruption and injustice that has become endemic in China’s rural areas,” said HRIC president Liu Qing. “Officials at the provincial level or above should launch an investigation into the allegations raised by Zhen Shuqing and his finance committee, as well as into reports that Zhen and others have been subjected to physical intimidation because of their anti-corruption efforts. In addition, we sincerely hope that the appeal court will carefully consider the evidence against Zhen Zhen, and deliver a verdict and sentence relating only to a crime for which she is actually guilty, rather than allowing the judicial system to be used as a tool of retribution by unlawful elements.”