A court in northern China has sentenced the son of a high-ranking police officer involved in a hit-and-run road accident to six years in prison, but many netizens think he deserves a much harsher punishment for causing the death of a female student.
Li Qiming pleaded guilty to drunk driving and manslaughter at his trial in Wangdu county in China’s Hebei province before the sentence was passed on Sunday.
The case attracted nationwide attention because Li, after striking the young woman and another pedestrian on a university campus in Baoding city, tried to flee the scene and defied bystanders to take action against him, yelling, “My father is Li Gang!”
Li Gang was the deputy police chief of Baoding city, and news of the October case circulated like wildfire online as an example of officials and their relatives abusing their power.
Along with his jail term, Li was ordered to pay compensation to the family of the dead student, Chen Xiaofeng, and to another victim of the crash.
Speaking by telephone following the sentence, Chen Xiaofeng’s brother Chen Lin said, “I want to discuss the verdict with our lawyer, and don’t want to bother my parents.”
The family’s lawyer, Hu Yihua, said only, “I am still in communication with Chen Lin. It is not convenient to make comments.”
Outrage over sentence
The sentence infuriated Chinese netizens, who had hoped for a punishment that would demonstrate the willingness of authorities to rein in power-abusing government officials and their relatives.
One netizen, writing anonymously, said, “China’s criminal code mandates a minimum of seven years’ imprisonment for leaving the scene after committing manslaughter by motor (accidents). But Li got just six years.”
“The judge is mocking China’s legal system.”
Hangzhou-based freelance writer Zan Aizong also denounced the reduced sentence, saying, “The trial has been marked by injustice from the very beginning.”
“First, Zhang Kai, a good lawyer for the Chen family, was deprived of the right to represent his clients. Second, the charges focused [only] on the traffic accident,” Zan wrote.
“The victim’s family has been very angry about all these procedures, but so what?!”
“The court appears to be serving only the interest of the power-abusing officials. In fact, the victim in this case is not only a young college student, but also the heart of the Chinese people,” Zan added.
Chinese censors immediately deleted all postings related to the verdict on microblogs on popular Chinese websites including sina.com, sohu.com, and 163.com.
Meanwhile, all media outlets in China were instructed to use only the “unified dispatch” issued by the state-controlled Xinhua news agency when reporting on the case.
Reported from Hong Kong by Xin Yu for RFA’s Mandarin service. Translated by Ping Chen. Written in English by Richard Finney.