In Inner Mongolia, justice denied and then delayed

Hugejiltu's tombstone

In 1996, a man in Inner Mongolia was executed for the rape and murder of a woman in a textile mill bathroom in Hohhot. His conviction was based largely on a confession he made to police after he reported discovering the body.

The man, Hugejiltu, insisted to public prosecutors that he was innocent, but the death sentence was carried out within just a few months.

Then in 2005, Zhao Zhihong, a serial rapist and murderer, was caught by police in Inner Mongolia. Among the ten murders he confessed to was that of the woman in the textile mill bathroom. He was only tried for nine of the murders; prosecutors made a point of not revisiting Hugejiltu's case. Despite repeated reports in the national media, including an article in the latest issue of Window of the South (translated below), local authorities have continued to drag their feet.

The domestic media has compared Hugejiltu to Nie Shubin, a man who was executed in 1995 for the rape and murder of a woman in Hebei Province. Then in 2005, a man named Wang Shujin confessed to multiple rapes and murders, including the case for which Nie was convicted. After national media exposure, the provincial PSB announced that it was revisiting the case, but there have been no further developments.

As high-profile as it is, the Window of the South article has little to add to previous reports, such as an in-depth article that ran in Law & Life in late 2006, which concluded on a hopeful note:

When my investigation concluded, I learned that the Inner Mongolia Public Security Department, the Higher People's Court, and the Inner Mongolia People's Procuratorate had set up review teams concerning the "4-9 case." If Hugejiltu was truly unjustly put to death, I trust that the law will see justice done!

What Window of the South does do is point an accusing finger at the authorities for failing to pursue the case. In its final paragraphs, the article quotes an unnamed, high-placed official in Inner Mongolia who says that the case is being ignored by the local government in order to protect the careers of the people who handled it in 1996:

The factual part of this case became clear long ago, so there should no longer be any doubt. However, if the case is conducted according to legal procedures, many of the people responsible must be punished and subjected to party discipline. And everyone who handled the case, from the police to the procuratorate to the courts, has changed positions in the meantime, and some have even been promoted or transferred elsewhere. So you can imagine the difficulty.

In the article translated below, "victim" refers to Hugejiltu (呼格吉勒图); the murdered woman is not identified in any of the reports I've come across.

The "Nie Shubin Case" of Inner Mongolia Heats Up Again

by Zhu Shunzhong / NFC

For Li Sanren and Shang Aiyun, June 17 was another special Wednesday. Every Wednesday, someone would be at the High Court of the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region to receive their visit.

"Each time they say they sympathize with my son, and even that my son Hugejiltu was unjustly put to death. But they have never brought any hope to our family, not once in four years." As they walked out of the court building, Shang still had tears in her eyes.

Leaving the courthouse, the two elderly people got on their bikes and returned home. In their baskets were photocopies of two newspapers, the April 20, 1996 edition of the Hohhot Evening News and the December 16, 2005 edition of the Inner Mongolia Legal News.

Two articles, published nine years apart, reported on the same event, a murder that took place in a public bathroom in the family living quarters of the Hohhot #1 Wool Mill on April 9, 1996. Where they differed was in the fact that the Hohhot Evening News report fingered Li Sanren and Shang Aiyun's son Hugejiltu as the suspect, while the Inner Mongolia Legal News report named Zhao Zhihong.

According to local media reports, on April 9, 1996, in a public bathroom of the family living quarters of the Hohhot #1 Wool Mill, a woman was raped and murdered. Public security swiftly nailed down a criminal suspect: Hugejiltu, the man who reported the death. After submission to the public prosecutor and an open trial, Hugejiltu was put to death in June of the same year.

On October 23, 2005, Zhao Zhihong, a man known in the local media as the "Murder Demon" who was involved in twenty-one cases including ten murders, was nabbed by police after a meticulous search. After Zhao was caught, he confessed that one day in April, 1996, he killed a woman in a public bathroom in the family living quarters of the #1 Wool Mill.

When the case was made public, Hugejiltu's parents became even more convinced that their honest, slow-witted son had been unjustly put to death.

The Hugejiltu Case of the end of 2005 was almost identical to the Nie Shubin Case that was uncovered in Hebei in January, 2005. Who is the true culprit? When will the judiciary provide a clear conclusion? These issues captured the public's attention.

The Xinhua branch in Inner Mongolia issued five separate internal reference reports on the situation, attracting the close attention of the central government leaders. In 2006, the Inner Mongolian judiciary organized an investigation team to review the case. On January 1, 2007, the execution of Zhao Zhihong for capital crimes was halted.

These things gave a ray of hope to Hugejiltu's family. However, four years have passed without any further progress. Zhao Zhihong remains in detention.

The transcript proves he did not "confess to everything"

After Hugejiltu was caught, the local media did its reporting according to information released the police, and said that Hugejiltu had "confessed to everything."

On May 27, this reporter obtained a thirteen-year-old transcript from the office of a major leader in the Inner Mongolian judiciary. The transcript showed that even a month before he was executed, Hugejiltu maintained that he was innocent.

The record was taken at 9:20 on the evening of May 7, 1996. The interrogators were Liu and Peng of the Hohhot Procuratorate. The subject was later executed by shooting at 2pm on June 10.

The May 7 date indicates that the interrogation took place one week after the "4-9 case" in which Hugejiltu was a suspect had been turned over to the procuratorate following a police investigation.

In the seven-page, 1,500-character transcript, Hugejiltu said repeatedly, "What I've said today is all true, and I told the truth at the beginning at the PSB....later, the PSB people made me say what they told me to, and they wouldn't let me urinate....they said that if I said that I killed the person, they would let me urinate....they also said the girl wasn't actually dead, they said that they could return me home immediately..."

When he was narrating "the facts of his crime that night," Hugejiltu gave the following account: "That night I told Yan Feng to take a look in the bathroom to see whether or not the girl was already dead....when I found out that she was dead, I ran off...all of the characteristics about the autumn clothing she was wearing....I guessed, when I had no other choice....I didn't strangle that woman..."

The transcript shows that the interrogators used language like "that's bullshit" to reply to Hugejiltu.

Evidently, the procuratorate did not attach much importance to the transcript. During the trial, the procuratorate accused Hugejiltu of murder.

By the time Zhao Zhihong was captured in 2005, people had already begun to suspect that he was the real killer in the "4-9 female," and they hoped that Zhao's trial would clear up the matter.

After his life was spared

Tang Ji, a political and legal affairs reporter for Xinhua's Inner Mongolia branch, wrote up five internal reference report about the suspicions in the Hugejiltu case. He told this reporter that on November 28, 2006, Hohhot Intermediate People's Court tried Zhao Zhihong for multiple murders in a closed session. To everyone's surprise, the procuratorate "unexpectedly forgot" to include the "4-9 case" in its charges against Zhao. The murders of ten young women that the suspect ought to have been charged with turned into nine in the public prosecution filing.

"They had a driving purpose, to kill Zhao as quickly as possible. If the "4-9 case" had been included in the prosecution, Hugejiltu would quite naturally have been entered into the retrial process, with a completely predictable outcome," Yang said.

At the end of 2006, just twelve days before the Supreme People's Court was to reassume authority over the death penalty, Xinhua's internal reference reports caught the eye of government leaders.

"Zhao Zhihong living to see January 1, 2007 was the single greatest confidence boost and hope in the Hugejiltu case to date. However, that confidence is gradually being eroded by four years of foot-dragging on the part of Inner Mongolia PSB, procuratorate, and judiciary, and the family of the victim has even returned to their old road of repeated petitioning," said Miao Li, a lawyer retained by Hugejiltu's parents.

One well-placed source in Inner Mongolia law and politics who has repeatedly called for a retrial in the Hugejiltu case revealed more inside details.

According to this source, after the 4-9 case in 1996, detectives with the Xincheng branch of the Hohhot PSB, which was handling the case, had obtained bodily secretions from inside the dead woman's vagina (the perpetrator's semen), and according to basic rules of investigation, the secretions ought to have been subjected to lab tests and analysis. Unfortunately, the strongest evidence in the case was "forgotten" by the leadership.

The source also said that after Zhao Zhihong was caught, Feng Zhiming, then director of the Saihan District PSB in Hohhot and former vice-director of the Xincheng PSB and one of the leaders responsible for breaking the Hugejiltu case, once conducted a one-on-one interrogation of Zhao. This immediately aroused a high degree of interest among the Hohhot PSB leadership, and afterward Zhao was transferred, and the police in charge were replaced with People's Armed Police officers.

Officers involved have all been promoted

On May 29, Yang Chengxun and Wu Guoqing, two criminal investigation experts with the Ministry of Public Security who have been closely observing the case, told this reporter that Hugejiltu was absolutely not the murderer.

Yang said that after Zhao's capture, he went to Inner Mongolia and personally performed a range of technical measurements on Zhao, including a polygraph and psychological and emotional checkups, which ultimately determined that Zhao was indeed the real killer in the "4-9 case."

Yang said, "Hugejiltu was definitely treated unjustly. It was a misjudged case. Zhao Zhihong is definitely the murderer."

Wu, who has repeatedly compared Zhao and Hugejiltu's files, is even more blunt when speaking about the case: "My attitude is clear, and I've made multiple reports to the PSB and the central government. One case cannot have two murderers, so one of them must have been be unjustly accused."

As for why this case has shown no signs of movement through the legal process four years after Zhao's capture, Wu said, "The matter has been reported to the central authorities, and relevant parties have requested the police, procuratorate, and judiciary to submit their opinions. The opinion of the public security departments is quite clear. The sticking point is with the court."

"The factual part of this case became clear long ago, so there should no longer be any doubt. However, if the case is conducted according to legal procedures, many of the people responsible must be punished and subjected to party discipline. And everyone who handled the case, from the police to the procuratorate to the courts, has changed positions in the meantime, and some have even been promoted or transferred elsewhere. So you can imagine the difficulty," the high-placed leader within the Inner Mongolia political and legal system who provided the transcript to the reporter said frankly.

Today, it's been thirteen years since Hugejiltu was put to death.

Links and Sources
There are currently 2 Comments for In Inner Mongolia, justice denied and then delayed.

Comments on In Inner Mongolia, justice denied and then delayed

"And everyone who handled the case, from the police to the procuratorate to the courts, has changed positions in the meantime, and some have even been promoted or transferred elsewhere. So you can imagine the difficulty"

Help me "imagine the difficulty" if Hugejiltu was instead the son of a high ranking cadre in this corrupt Inner Mongolian judicial process.

In some other parts of China, and perhaps if this case had happened more recently, wouldn't there be an uprising of angry citizens flipping PSB vehicles upside down?

No one is held responsible for this injustice is because there is no separation of power in China, judicial, excutive and legislative all work for and protect the interest of party members.
Capital punishement can deter crime, and it is not time yet to abolish it. China will execute less people in the future, hoepfully both through more judicial prudence and balanced society.

China Media Timeline
Major media events over the last three decades
Danwei Model Workers
The latest recommended blogs and new media
From 2008
Front Page of the Day
A different newspaper every weekday
From the Vault
Classic Danwei posts
+ Culture and corporate propaganda in Soho Xiaobao (2007.11): Mid-2007 issues of Soho Xiaobao (SOHO小报), illustrating the complicated identity of in-house magazines run by real estate companies.
+ Internet executives complain about excessive Net censorship (2010.03): Internet executives complain about excessive Net censorship at an officially sanctioned meeting in Shenzhen.
+ Crowd-sourced cheating on the 2010 gaokao (2010.06): A student in Sichuan seeks help with the ancient Chinese section of this year's college entrance exam -- while the test is going on!
Danwei Archives