Why Gao Qinrong Was Not Vindicated
(yWeekend) Why Gao Qinrong Could Not Get Vindicated Over Eight Years. By Xu Ying. January 4, 2007.
Later December last year, Gao Qinrong forwarded his appeal materials to the National People's Congress. He said that the materials will be forwarded to the Supreme Court and his appeal will have bright prospects. Gao Qinrong was involved in the report on the Shanxi Fake Irrigation Project and was named a hero reporter for exposing fakery. Later, he was sentenced to 13 years in prison (12 years time served) for "pimping, embezzlement and fraud." After deducting time for good behavior he actually served eight years.
On December 20, yWeekend published the experience of Gao Qinrong in prison. After getting out of prison, Gao Qinrong continued his quest for vindication. Gao said that the three charges against him 00 "pimping, embezzlement and fraud" were fabricated.
During this eight years in prison, Gao wrote to the Supreme Court, the Supreme Procuratorate, the National People's Congress, the Shanxi provincial supreme court and other departments. But he heard nothing. Perhaps the petitioning letters never reached the courts, or perhaps the courts ignored them? Does Gao Qinrong have a chance with a case that failed for the past eight years already? Does Gao Qinrong have new evidence that can re-open the case?
During his eight years in jail, Gao Qinrong wrote eight petitioning letters every month. So he wrote at least 768 letters overall, and sent them to the Supreme Court, the Supreme Procuratorate, the Shanxi provincial supreme court and other related departments. He received no information in reply. Gao said: "During the period between the two congresses in 2003, judge Xiao Yang made a note about my case: 'This case should be taken care by whomever caused it.' At the time, the Shanxi provincial supreme court leaders replied that they will handle the matter when they return. Three years later, there has been no news of a re-trial of the case."
The petition letters were sent out from the prison but they did not reach the supreme court. Where did they vanish in the process?
Did Gao's petition letter not reach the Shanxi provincial supreme court, or did the Shanxi provincial court not believe that his petition reach the requirements for a re-hearing? According Ms. Sheng at the Shanxi provincial supreme court's petition office which has been established since 2002 for appeals on criminal cases, she does not remember the name "Gao Qinrong" and she has not received any of his relatives. When "a family relative shows up, we have to record his name." Sheng is certain that she has not received any petitioning letter from "Gao Qinrong." So where did Gao's letters go?
Gao Qinrong told our reporter that other prisoners warned him when they saw his petitioning letters that the prison will never send them. At the time, he did not believe them. But he is now having doubts whether the prison actually sent his petition letters out.
But the political commissar named Ma at the prison in which Gao stayed rejected this doubt. He said that the prison does not withhold letters from the prisoners. Generally, the prisoners' letters are placed into a mailbox whose contents are removed by the postal office workers by schedule.
As for the disappearance of Gao's petitioning letters at some point, Ma said that the prison has nothing to do with it.
After Gao Qinrong got out of prison in mid-December, he took his letter and petition materials to Beijing and continued his road to petition. In late December, he told our reporter that the material has been given to the National People's Congress. "With the oversight from the National People's Congress, my case should reach the Supreme Court." When Gao spoke those words, he raised his tone as if he saw some hope.
According to lawyer Zhang Qingsong, Gao Qinrong needs to produce some new evidence or otherwise show that there were contradictions in the major evidence in the original trial to show that there were legal errors in the original trial.
But Gao Qinrong's defense lawyer Li Xiaolin believes that the likelihood of a re-trial is tiny but this is unrelated to any new evidence. "Nine years ago, Gao Qinrong was sentenced to 13 years in prison on insufficient evidence." Li Xiaolin pointed out that the court determined that Gao Qinrong was a "pimp" because he was at a scene in which prostitution occurred. "So when the police arrived at the scene, they were also pimps?"
Gao Qinrong is still insisting that lawyer Li is pessimistic about the appeal, but can Gao produce any new evidence?
In the original trial, the court did not respond to Gao Qinrong's request to "produce the original videotape." Can Gao Qinrong find this key piece of evidence?
(The following information was obtained from the verdict of August 13, 1998 with respect to Gao Qinrong's case)
"In June 1996, the defendant Gao Qinrong went to Dongda Hotel (Taiyuan city) in order to visit chairman Xiao Junsheng and general manager Zhang Yanmin of the Yisheng Enterprises Limited Company (Shenzhen) who were in business in Taiyuan. He offered to find a prostitute for the two. Gao contacted a person named Minsheng (basic information unknown) to procure a prostitute (basic information unknown). Xiao and Zhang used their video camera to record the proceedings of their session with the prostitute."
"The evidence concerning the incident included: the testimony of witnesses Xiao Junsheng and Zhang Yanmin that the defendant Gao Qinrong introduced the prostitute to them and their session; the videotape of the session which showed what they did with the prostitute and that Zhang Yanmin and the prostitute were naked when Gao Qinrong entered the room."
Gao Qinrong told the reporter: "At the time, I brought my eight-year-old daughter along to the hotel to visit Xiao and Zhang. I did not imagine that they were spending time with a prostitute and recording the session. I knocked on the door for some time before someone answered. When I learned that they were having a session with a prostitute, I immediately took my daughter aside. At the time, the prostitute hid in the bathroom as soon as she heard the door knocks. She knocked the camera to point towards the door and it captured me and my daughter. In court, when they showed the videotape evidence, they erased my daughter's image." Gao Qinrong emphasized repeatedly that he would not have brought his daughter along if he knew that the two people were in a session with a prostitute.
There was a discrepancy between this description and the charges in the verdict document: Gao said that he did not see the prostitute when he entered but the verdict sheet said that "the prostitute was naked when Gao Qinrong entered the room."
Gao Qinrong's defense lawyer Li Xiaolin recalled that the procuratorate had produced a screen capture image during the trial: "(Gao Qinrong personally confirmed that the person who was shown from the legs to the elbows was himself) at the time, Gao walked in front of the video camera and the prostitute was naked on the bed right in front of the camera."
Since Gao Qinrong wondered if the image had been technically processed, Li Xiaolin demanded that the court produce the original tape. But the court rejected the request.
Li Xiaolin believed that when the court used words such as "basic information unknown" in the verdict, that was against basic legal knowledge. Most criminal charges are based upon "the basic facts are known" and the "basic evidence is sufficient." But this case did not even have a specific time in which the crime was committed. The case occurred in 1996 when Xiao and Zhang were arrested. If Gao was the pimp, then how come the police notes did not include the name of Gao Qinrong? Why was he prosecuted only in 1998? "Who was there when they were with the prostitute? Who was the pimp? The police could not have arrested the johns."
Since the court did not produce the full videotape, how would Gao Qinrong know that he and his daughter had appeared on camera?
Gao explained that the Yuncheng police studied the videotape that Xiao Junsheng and Zhang Yanmin about themselves and observed Gao and his daughter in the film. But the screen capture in the court did not show the daughter. "If the tape is still in the hands of the police, it can establish my innocence.
But here is the problem again. Whether the tape can be retrieved depends on whether a re-trial will take place.
Gao Qinrong's good friend did not provide perjury. A lawyer recommended that Gao produce his mother's will as proof:
"In July 1996, defendant Gao Qinrong received a request from Yuncheng city public security bureau patrol division deputy director Cheng Jianguo concerning Cheng's cousin Wang Junxue illegally exporting Hongtashan cigarettes which were withheld by the Hejin City Tobacco Bureau. In room 719 of the Yuncheng hotel, Gao received two cartons of Yuxi cigarettes valued at 720 RMB plus 25,000 in cash from Wang Junxue..
The evidence concerning the allegations included: the tobacco seller Wang Junxue's testimony and his cousin Cheng Jianguo's testimony in court that they asked Gao Qinrong to lobby the tobacco company and that they gave Gao Qinrong two cartoons of Yuxi cigarettes and 25,000 RMB. The district tobacco commission chairman Dong Baolin testified that the defendant Gao Qinrong and the tobacco seller Wang Junxue lobbied him but he acted in accordance with the law. During this period, Gao Qinrong also asked about the anonymous denunciations from others ..."
"The 25,000 RMB was actually a repayment from Cheng Jianguo for a loan from my mother. In 1996, he needed to gather some money to build a house. He borrowed 30,000 RMB from my mother and he still owes me 5,000 RMB. So how can I be accepting a bribe?" Concerning his good friend, Gao Qinrong said, "Cheng Jianguo used to call my mother 'mom.' His cousin's cigarettes were held up. I knew Hejin City Tobacco Bureau's Dong Baolin and he asked me to plead. I asked him at the time, 'Did you have a permit for the tobacco?' He said yes, and that was why I went to see Dong Baolin and pleaded for leniency. I did not violate any principals. I'm a reporter. What power do I have? If the tobacco was unlicensed, then there was nothing that Dong Baolin can do?"
Was the 25,000 RMB a loan or a bribe? Gao Qinrong said that there was no contract, but his mother's will referred to a 30,000 RMB loan to Cheng Jianguo.
Gao brought up this evidence from the detention center, but that was ignored.
Li Xiaolin told the reporter that Gao and Cheng got along very well before the case and they mixed up their finances. It was hard for outsiders to figure things out.
Li believes that the key to the "bribery" charge is whether Gao was a "state employee" who abused this power.
Accordingly, our reporter contacted Xinhua's Shanxi bureau's "Reporter Observations" where Gao Qinrong worked. Between 1996 and 1998, Gao Qinrong worked at that office on a loan basis. Every six months, "Reporter Observations" sent a letter to Gao's original unit (the Shanxi Youth Daily) to extend the loan for another six months. But Gao was not a member of the "Reporter Observations" group, and he does not have a contract with them.
According to Article 93 of the Criminal Law Code, "This article refers to all state employees, meaning those persons who work for state departmental unit. Persons who work for state-owned enterprises, companies and business unites, civil groups which engage in public services ... are considered state employees." The Shanxi Youth Daily is a business unit.
But lawyer Li emphasized that "Gao Qinrong was just a reporter and he does not have the right to decide whether the tobacco control department must release certain detained tobacco products. If the 25,000 RMB from Wang Junxue was intended for bribery, then Gao Qinrong can only be considered an intermediary agent as opposed to receiving a bribe. If Wang Junxue gave 25,000 RMB to Gao Qinrong, then one can only say that Gao is suspected of extortion."
Other lawyers demurred on this point. "For example, a deputy mayor may not be directly responsible for electricity. But by virtue of the fact that he is the deputy mayor, he may gain interests with respect to electricity. This can be regarded as an abuse of authority."
This lawyer that rather than argue about the statues as "state public employee," it is easier to produce the will of Gao's mother.
Gao Qinrong pins his hope on his good friend: "The lawyer has asked him to speak the truth. He said that the pressure is heavy. When I got out of prison, he said that he wanted to see me. I said that I would forgive him if he told the truth in court."
The court determined that Gao Qinrong stole 20,000 RMB by fraud. The evidence is a receipt from Gao Qinrong.
"In March 1996, Gao introduced to the one-time-only health product from the Shenzhen Yicheng Enterprises Limited Company to the Yuncheng Hotel. In June 1996, Yicheng Enterprises Limited Company provided Yuncheng Hotel with 122,877 RMB worth of merchandise. Yuncheng Hotel paid 50,486.6 RMB while still owing 72,392.2 RMB. On May 29, 1997, Gao came to the Yuncheng Hotel to see general manager Wang Zhigang and false claimed that Yicheng Enterprises Limited Company owed him money personally. He wanted 20,000 RMB from Yuncheng Hotel to pay for his debt. He gained the confidence of Yang Zhigang and took 20,000 RMB away from Yuncheng Hotel."
"The evidence with respect to the event included: Yuncheng Hotel's complaint that Gao Qinrong defrauded them of 20,000 RMB; the court testimony of Wang Zhigang and Du Dalai (assistant manager at Yuncheng Hotel) that the defendant Gao Qinrong told them that the Shenzhen people owed him money and therefore they can deduct 20,000 RMB from their debt; the testimony of Zhang Yanmin and Xiao Junsheng that they had financial dealings with Gao Qinrong; the receipts for payment ..."
Gao said that Yuncheng Hotel general manager Wang Zhigang filed a report six days before Gao was arrested. He regarded that there was only a debt dispute between him and Wang. "In 1997, our units were gathering money to buy real estate. My mother gave me 40,000 RMB. While I was staying at the Yuncheng Hotel, the money was stolen. I reported to the police, who could not solve the case. I wanted to get back to Taiyuan quickly. Since I knew the Yuncheng Hotel general manager Wang Zhigang, I asked that since I lost the money there and I needed to return home in a hurry, could he lend 20,000 RMB to me? He said okay and he asked me for a receipt. I wrote him a receipt and he signed it to indicate his agreement."
The court determined the 20,000 RMB to be "a fictional event whereby the defendant obtained 20,000 RMB by fraud." This was the charge for "fraud."
Lawyer Li described this "loan receipt" to the reporter: "In the column for the receipt, Gao Qinrong wrote 'Zhang Yanming.' In the column for the actual recipient, it stated that Gao Qinrong received the money "on behalf of." This cannot directly establish that the defendant illegally took over the money." He believes that since Gao Qinrong signed for the money, there is not such thing as illegal misappropriation. At most, the dispute between Gao Qinrong and the Yuncheng Hotel is a civil case.
The reporter asked Gao Qinrong, "Did you repay the 20,000 RMB?" Gao Qinrong said, "No. They had me arrested in 1998. What can I do? If I was arrested, then I don't have to repay it. Besides, I lost 40,000 RMB at their place and they don't care?" Gao believes that even if he repaid the money, they would have still nailed him on those charges.
Concerning the Gao Qinrong case, the reporter contacted judge Wang Jinlaing who presided over the first hearing. He said that he cannot be interviewed without permission. Director Yao at the Government Information Office said bluntly: "The case took place eight years ago. There is no point in going over it again."