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A Soccer Corruption Case Marks Key Shift In Chinese Attitudes On State Justice

The Chinese people are fed up with their justice system which is rife with corruption and lack of due process. There have been too many cases of wrongful convictions and confessions obtained through torture.

A uniform isn't everything (Kevin Poh)
A uniform isn't everything (Kevin Poh)
Yan Yung

BEIJING - Xie Yalong was the former vice-president of the Chinese Football Association (CFA). In September 2010, he was arrested on suspicion of manipulation of a soccer match and taking bribes.

On the fourth day of his trial, he retracted his confession and denied eight of the twelve charges against him. Xie said the investigator had tortured him to extract a confession. In his final statement, he admitted having taken some bribes, but declared that suspects should not to be tortured.

The Liaoning Provincial Police Department responded to Xie's accusation by denying the torture, but most Chinese appear to believe Xie Yalong's account of torture.

Why does the public believe Xie? Because using torture to extract confessions and using violence to enforce the law are common practices in China.

Almost every person believes that once someone falls in the hands of police officers, they are bound to suffer. One is very vulnerable when faced with China's strong and secretive judicial machine.

Everyone knows a case where someone innocent was wronged. For example, Zhao Zuohai: after serving 11 years in prison, the man whom he was supposed to have murdered somehow miraculously resurrected from the dead. Zhao had been forced to confess to a crime that hadn't even happened. He still has the scars caused by a gun barrel hitting his head.

Before Zhao, there was Nie Shubin, accused of rape and murder in 1995. Ten years after the execution of the innocent 21-year-old, another criminal confessed that he was the real murderer.

There was also Du Peiwu, the policeman who lost his wife and then was forced to admit killing her and her boss. If it wasn't for the arrest of a carjacking gang who admitted to the crime, Du wouldn't have escaped execution at the critical moment.

Good guys, and others

But Zhao Zuohai, Nie Shubin or Du Peiwu were all "good guys' who have been wronged. Xie is not so innocent, and corruption in Chinese football is a known fact.

Nevertheless, Xie's accusations still garner considerable support. The mainstream public opinion holds the view that "one should not ignore the torture Xie was subjected to just because of the ugly side of China's football fields."

Neither corruption nor injustice in judicial procedure is what the Chinese people want. When cases of torture are exposed one after the other, people's fear and hatred of the law enforcers' disrespect of due process is just as bad as their disgust at the crimes themselves.

Bo Xilai - now disgraced by both public opinion and the Chinese political hierarchy – is a perfect example. As governor of Chongqin, Bo pushed forward a "Anti-Corruption Campaign" which was widely alleged to use torture as a means of getting information.

When the "Anti-mafia" enforcers become the mafia themselves, when the rights of the suspect are trampled by the state apparatus, and when the will of the people who enforce justice overrides the law, nothing is bound to end well. Indeed, often the original allegation pales in comparison to what is inflicted on the suspect.

What is comforting in the Xie Yalong case is the public's attitude. That people are more concerned with the case's judicial process than the bribery itself and that they agree with the fact that even guilty people deserve protection is a sign that the rule of law, rationality, and humanity have been gradually growing in Chinese people's hearts.

Read the original article in Chinese

Photo - Kevin Poh

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