Suspended death sentence to China’s ex-minister draws flak

Beijing: Chinese netizens and experts on Tuesday voiced their discontent over punishment given to top officials guilty of graft, after a relatively lenient suspended death sentence was handed down to a former high-profile minister.

Liu Zhijun was sentenced to death with two years reprieve on Monday for accepting 64.6 million yuan (USD 10.5 million) in bribes during his tenure as Railway Minister from 2003 to 2011.

The Chinese railways launched massive modernisation programme, specially the high speed rails during his tenure.

“For the public, the suspended death penalty for Liu came as ‘no surprise’, as none of the senior officials, who went on trial for similar crimes in recent years, has received a simple death penalty,” a report said.

“A suspended death sentence normally results in a term of long imprisonment rather than execution”, the report said.

Former Commerce Minister and top ruling Communist Party Leader, Bo Xilai who was indicted for corruption and abuse of power but yet to go on trial.

His wife Gu Kalai was also given a suspended death sentence for murdering a British national.

Cao Yisun, a law professor with the China University of Political Science and Law, said that it shows the judicial department’s decision to gradually phase out the death penalty for economic crimes.

“But it doesn’t mean we don’t need capital punishment for such crime, because it still could serve as deterrence to corrupt officials,” he said.

However, the relatively lenient penalty was not enough to quell public anger, with many Web users voicing their disappointment online.

Mao Liqun, a lawyer with the Beijing-based Shangquan Law Firm, told the daily that public’s dissatisfaction toward Liu’s sentence was a reflection of their frustration with rampant corruption.

Though the court sentence indicated closure in the high-profile case, the problems for the scandal-ridden railway sector still remain despite Liu’s ouster. Bai Shanyun, the judge, who sentenced Liu told state-run Xinhua news agency that the former official should be sentenced to capital punishment as a result of the crime, but a two-year reprieve was given because Liu confessed his crime, including accepting bribes that were unknown to investigators, and he and his family cooperated with investigators to help locate the illegal gains.

Liu also appeared to be cooperative when confessing and showed his penitence during the investigation, prosecution and trial procedures, Bai said.

During the trial on June 9, Liu wept and said he would accept whatever sentence was handed down by the court.

Liu’s lawyer Qian Lieyang confirmed to the China News Service that Liu would not lodge an appeal.


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