Retrial begins for high-profile defendant in Yunnan

(      Updated : 2019-10-15

A file photo of Sun Xiaoguo.

On Monday the Yunnan High People's Court retried a high-profile case involving Sun Xiaoguo, who received the death penalty for multiple crimes but later had his sentence reduced to 20 years in prison due to the wrongful application of laws.

Sun was sentenced to death by the Kunming Intermediate People's Court in Yunnan in 1998 for rape, insulting women, intentional injury and disturbance of public order. The penalty was then cut to a suspended death sentence with a two-year reprieve by the high people's court, and it was further reduced to 20 years.

Sun was released in April 2010, which means the real prison term he actually served was 12 years and five months.

On July 18, the high people's court said it decided to rehear the case, as it believed the previous ruling was based on the wrongful application of laws after a series of investigations, reviews of files and materials as well as visits with people involved in the case.

Some parts of the retrial on Monday were not open to the public because the court said the sections on the charges of rape, intentional injury and insulting women were not suitable for disclosure, citing privacy concerns.

During the rehearing, the provincial prosecutors suggested the court should withdraw the previous ruling and make a new and correct judgment.

Sun's legitimate rights were fully protected by the court. It allowed two lawyers to defend Sun, and provided him and the attorneys opportunities to speak and share opinions for the case facts in the retrial.

The court added it would rule on the case at a later date.

Sun allegedly organized people and led these people to commit crimes again after being freed in 2010, according to a report from Xinhua News Agency.

On Monday, a total of 13 defendants, including Sun, were charged with the crimes of organizing, leading and attending organized offenses, opening gambling houses, disturbance of public order, illegal detention, intentional injury, affray, obstruction of testimony and bribery by prosecutors from the province's Yuxi city, the report said.

Prosecutors from the city's Jiangchuan district charged another 22 defendants with the crimes of opening gambling houses, disturbance of public order, affray, illegal detention, fraud and intentional injury at the same time, it added.

Before Monday's retrial and prosecutions, there were 20 people, including prison officials, police officers and a judge, under investigation over their possible roles in helping Sun escape capital punishment, it said.

Of those people, 19 were transferred to prosecutors for a review on suspicion of duty-related crimes on Monday. Of the transferred, 13 including Sun's stepfather Li Qiaozhong and Sun's mother Sun Heyu are being reviewed for allegedly abusing power, offering bribes, receiving bribes and malpractice, it said.

The other six people are being reviewed on suspicion of improperly reducing prison terms, it said.

Now, the 19 suspects have all been detained by the prosecutors and related investigations are still underway.

Sun's case received national attention in April when a local media outlet reported several gangs, including one led by Sun, were smashed in a crackdown against organized crimes in Kunming. Sun was then detained for the gang activities.

The case later triggered widespread concern over possible corruption in the judicial and prison systems after follow-up stories discovered Sun was the same man convicted of multiple charges in 1998 and he had therefore mysteriously escaped a death sentence and been living as a free man.

Sun became shareholder of several enterprises and controlled many bars after leaving prison.

As the controversies spread on Chinese social media, a central inspection group for fighting gang-related crimes came to Yunnan and began conducting a thorough investigation on how Sun appeared to have escaped justice.