Chinese man gets retrial after web outcry
Beijing - A Chinese man sentenced to life in prison for evading massive road toll fees has been granted a retrial, judicial authorities said on Friday, after the severity of the sentence caused a huge online outcry.
Shi Jianfeng, a self-employed driver in the central province of Henan, was sentenced earlier this week after using fake military licence plates on his trucks to dodge toll fees to the tune of more than $558 000 over an eight-month period.
The harsh sentence sparked a firestorm of criticism in Chinese blogs and online forums, with many netizens hitting out at exorbitant road fees and noting that Shi's income was far smaller than the road costs he would typically have incurred.
The intermediate court of the city of Pingdingshan, which had sentenced Shi, said in a statement that the case had "triggered the media's attention and heated debate".
Authorities had subsequently interrogated Shi and found "new evidence" that could change the outcome of the case, and had decided to hold a retrial, said the statement on the court's website.
Online commenters welcomed the decision, with many calling Shi's sentence a travesty amid regular reports of corrupt government and Communist Party officials getting relatively light punishments for abusing their positions.
"Compared to officials who have pocketed hundreds of millions of yuan, this is not a serious case," one netizen said on the popular sina.com web portal.
The case highlights the growing power of web users in China - which has the world's largest online population at 450 million users - to force the government's hand in a nation where ordinary citizens have few outlets to address perceived injustices.
China has witnessed a number of similar cases over the past few years.
In one celebrated example, Deng Yujiao, a waitress in the central province of Hubei, walked free from court in June 2009 despite being convicted of stabbing to death an official who demanded sex.
Her release followed a nationwide outpouring of sympathy and support in the media and on the internet.