SHANGHAI: A man jailed in China more than two decades ago for murder was acquitted on Monday, the latest in a series of wrongful convictions overturned in the country.
Chen Man was handed a suspended death sentence for killing a man on China’s southern island province Hainan in November 1994.
But the high court of China’s eastern Zhejiang province, where he was originally convicted, pronounced Chen not guilty due to “lack of evidence,” it said on a social media account Monday.
The case is the latest to highlight miscarriages of justice in China, where forced confessions are widespread and more than 99 percent of criminal defendants are found guilty.
China’s top court ordered Chen’s case to be re-opened in April 2015 after he appealed.
Chen — who is in his early 50s — was convicted solely on the basis of confessions, which were “inconsistent” during two trials that convicted him, court judge Zhang Qin said in a statement on Monday.
China’s courts are tightly controlled by the ruling Communist party, which has vowed to overturn mistaken verdicts in the face of widespread public anger.
Executed man cleared
Of those exonerated in recent years, Chen spent the longest time in prison, state media said. For others, the new verdicts have come too late.
Twenty-seven officials in China have been “penalized” for the wrongful execution of a teenager 20 years ago, state news agency Xinhua reported late Sunday.
Hugjiltu was 18 in 1996 when he was sentenced and put to death for the rape and murder of a woman in the toilet of a textile factory in Hohhot in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.
In 2014 Hugjiltu was finally exonerated after another man, Zhao Zhihong, confessed to the crime and was in turn convicted and sentenced to death.
“One of the blacklisted officials responsible for the wrongful conviction of Huugjiltu, Feng Zhiming, was suspected of job-related crimes and was subject to further investigation,” Xinhua reported authorities as saying in a statement.
Feng, a former deputy chief with the public security bureau in Hohhot, could face prosecution, Xinhua added.
The other 26 — among them police officers and court officials — “received administrative penalties including admonitions and record of demerit,” Xinhua said without giving further detail.
The case has highlighted the shortcomings in China’s Communist Party-controlled legal system, where acquittals are extremely rare — 99.93 percent of defendants in criminal cases were found guilty in 2013, according to official statistics.
The use of force to extract confessions remains widespread in the country and defendants often do not have effective defense in criminal trials, leading to regular miscarriages of justice.