Convicted murderer set free after victim returns home for welfare check


(Picture from People’s Daily: “Resurrected” “victim”  Zhao Zhenshang)

Zhao Zuohai, a 57-year-old resident of Zhaolu village in Henan Province, was recently declared innocent by the Henan Provincial Higher People’s Court on Sunday, May 9. He had been in prison since 2002.

In October 1997, Zhao Zuohai and his neighbor Zhao Zhenshang had gotten into an argument, after which Zhao Zhenshang went missing. It wasn’t until four months later that a member of Zhao Zhenshang’s family reported that he went missing.

A headless body was found in the village in May 1999, after which Zhao Zuohai was arrested. He was convicted for the murder of Zhao Zhenshang in 2002.

On April 30, the alleged victim, whose identity was confirmed by the Henan Higher People’s Court, returned to the village. Zhao Zhenshang, now 58, is paralyzed and, having no money for treatment, was forced to go back to his village for welfare money.

Zhao Zhenshang showed no compunction when told about the fate of his former neighbor. He stated that he left the village after attacking Zhao Zuohai, afraid that he might have killed him. Zhao Zhenshang then remarked that his former neighbor was too easily prone to violence and needed to be taught a lesson.

Zhao Zhenshang said his relationship with Zhao Zuohai used to be amicable until a quarrel about borrowed money caused their friendship to dissipate. It was also said that Zhao Zuohai was having an affair with a married woman. For these reasons, Zhao Zhenshang stated that his former neighbor deserved this relative wake-up-call.

Zhao Zuolai and his wife were both subjected to police brutality and torture, which is stated as the reason behind why Zhao Zuohai confessed to the murder.

Zhao Zuohai had a wife and four children at the time of his conviction. Since he entered prison in 2002, his wife has remarried and taken two children with her. Other families have since adopted the remaining two children.

Since being released, authorities are set on offering Zhao Zuohai compensation for the years he spent in prison, unable to work. The State Compensation Law says an appropriate amount of compensation is equal to the average daily salary of a State employee in the previous year (112 yuan or $16 USD/day). Zhao Zuohai will receive at least 306,000 yuan ($45,000 USD) for losing his freedom from December 2002.

Sources: ifengifeng, People’s Daily

  1. 300.000 for 8 years in a Chinese prison? That’s got to be the absolute minimum. He should get a LOT of money for the wrongful and obviously totally bogus sentencing as well. This is a long string of embarrasing mistakes from misidentifying the body to convicting this guy without a shred of evidence. I wonder how many innocent people get a death sentence and a bullet to the head a month later in this country. Yes,, the average time from sentencing to execution here is about a month,, lovely innit?

    1. The average period from sentencing to execution is about a month? Are you serious? A lot death sentence got a two year suspension such as in this case and it’s rare that a death sentence doesn’t change to a life penalty after the period. Wait, I should know what you really want to say. Forget about the British drug dealers executed in China, they deserve the bullets shot into their head. If you are not sure about things in China, check it out or ask questions. Don’t make bullshit while assume you know a lot.

      1. Maybe some get a two year suspension but many do not. I don’t know where you’ve got your info from but I have heard of plenty of cases where the execution is carried out within a month. Last one I have heard of was that guy who attacked the school a few months ago. So maybe YOU shouldn’t make bullshit assumptions when you clearly don’y know what you are talking about. And no I don’t support the death penalty for selling drugs and as a matter of fact I don’t support capital punishment at all. Do you know how many people China executes on a yearly basis? Don’t you and your gong ho off-with-their-heads mob friends sometimes -just sometimes- wonder how many of these people were in fact innocent? The US has a flawed although much more careful legal system than China as well as several more instances of appeals yet they still regularly find innocent people in their jails serving long sentences or at death row. Are you okay with 1 innocent out of 1000 guilty people being executed for the sake of this eye-for-an-eye crap? What about 1 in 100? 1in 10? What is acceptable to you and are you willing to be that one guy?

        When all you have is a hammer every problem is a nail.

        1. But you haven’t given a proof of what you have stated, that on average death sentence was carried out in a month after a sentence. The vast majority of death sentences were actually changed to a life imprisonment or 15-20 years in a prison after the two-year suspension, and all the rest must be handled in a rigid legal procedure: every death sentence must have a public second trial even the condemned doesn’t appeal for it and the final sentencing can only be approved by the Supreme People’s Court of the People’s Republic of China after a third independent investigation. Correct me if I’m wrong but as I have heard all death penalties in recent years actually carried out were in horrible murder cases (such as campus slaughter), serious business and government corruption (tainted food and vaccines) and drug/guns dealing, with sufficient evidences. Even in the Yang Jia case where he killed five cops and wounded four others in a police building, the criminal didn’t get executed two months after the first sentence. In another case of prion breaking happened last year in Inner Mongolia that four prisoners killed a policeman and escaped the jail,

          when a police officer said a wrong thing about the recaptured criminal that “he will be executed soon” in an interview, it creates an uproar in society.

          To answer your last few questions: personally I support death penalty to extreme criminals but I’m against sentencing without sufficient evidences and enough time to collect such evidences. However I’m also against turning serious murder cases with good evidences into year-after-year ‘soap opera’ in the legal system. Thus relatively quick executions plus the majority of two-year suspension is a practical way.

          My point is that it’s all fair to have your opinion to against or to support the penalty but it’s ridiculous to say death sentence should be abandoned because an (actually) life imprison judgment was overthrown in this case. It’s even worse to ‘prove’ your point by making up a figure you don’t actually have.

          And your example of US legal system is weird since I (or the OP) didn’t make a compare with America. I thought you are (or were?) British and Britain doesn’t have capital penalty, aka is better than the China-America axis of evil that does the ‘eye-for-an-eye crap’, right? Where’s your royal pride at all?

  2. I feel bad for the old man for sure and also feel that his lost life should come back in a more better way. I wonder who’s body was found as well???

  3. It should be further investigated what kind of ‘police brutality and torture’ was used and by whom. I feel sorry for Zhao’s lose. BTW, I have the same question, who was the dead body then?

  4. So they found a headless body and they couldn’t even test it to see if it was indeed the victim they were looking for? There’s your problem right there. Get with the program China, it’s called DNA testing.

  5. Natalie,
    I am so proud of you. You’re one of the only Ohioans ever to write for a Chinese-based news sector. No big deal… you’re just that amazing.
    Keep it up GF


  6. I’m confused – I thought you were only allowed one child in China – how is it that the victim of this false murder charge has four of them?

    1. These men are older than the One Child Policy (enacted in 1979, but had loose enforcement in the countryside until 1983). This man probably had his children by that time or when the government was still trying out new versions of the policy. Most children in China continue to live with their parents for their whole lives.

      On another note, the One Child Policy is much more strict in the cities than in the countryside. These men live in a very rural area, where it is relatively easy to apply to local authorities to have other children. Reasons to have another child include: 1) your first children are girls– who are not much help in plowing land in the Chinese mindset, 2) your child is a weaking, sick, or disabled, 3) you have a large farm and need more hands to help work it, etc.

      It is not stated what the gender of the children are, but being relatively familiar with Chinese culture and heritage, I’m certain that there were some girls in the bunch. Since these men are from the countryside, the would have been the first to be adopted, given the mother’s preference to keep the boys close and connected to the family because they are considered more useful.

  7. This story is a great travesty of justice. The accused should have been DNA tested yonks ago to clear his name. The justice system is flawed and unjust. I think there is a real need for lawyers, law enforcement and the justice system to look at becoming more professional, educated and transparent.

    I think this guy deserve compensation, an apology from the law enforcement authorities and a new clean record.

  8. Wow, someone should give the local cops a few seasons of CI : New York or something. Then they can learn how to do their jobs… but probably not.

    The humanity of it all! So damn stupid! It’s beyond all comprehension!

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