China punishes 27 officials over teen’s wrongful execution


Twenty-seven officials in China have been “penalized” for the wrongful execution of a teenager 20 years ago, the official Xinhua News Agency reported Sunday.

Hugjiltu was 18 in 1996 when he was sentenced and put to death for the rape and murder of a woman in the toilet of a textile factory in Hohhot in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.

In 2014 Hugjiltu was exonerated after another man, Zhao Zhihong, confessed to the crime and was in turn convicted and sentenced to death.

“One of the blacklisted officials responsible for the wrongful conviction of Huugjiltu, Feng Zhiming, was suspected of job-related crimes and was subject to further investigation,” Xinhua reported authorities as saying in a statement.

Feng, a former deputy chief with the public security bureau in Hohhot, could face prosecution, Xinhua added.

The other 26 — among them police officers and court officials — “received administrative penalties including admonitions and record of demerit,” Xinhua said without giving further detail.

The case has highlighted the shortcomings in China’s Communist Party-controlled legal system, where acquittals are extremely rare — 99.93 percent of defendants in criminal cases were found guilty in 2013, according to official statistics.

The use of force to extract confessions remains widespread in the country and defendants often do not have effective defence in criminal trials, leading to regular miscarriages of justice.