Falsely accused official’s ten year struggle for justice does not bode well for ordinary workers

Early this year, the former president of the Hunan Goods and Materials Corp, Tan Zhaohua, finally cleared his name after being falsely accused of bribery and embezzlement in 2001.

The case prompted extensive discussion in the Chinese media, with New Century magazine asking: If it took ten years for a provincial-level official to overcome injustice, what hope was there for ordinary Chinese people?

Tan was detained for suspected bribery and embezzlement by the Hunan Discipline and Inspection Commission in 2001, and was sentenced to eight years imprisonment by the Hunan High Court in 2003. Tan filed numerous appeals, and in 2007, the Supreme People’s Court in Beijing ordered the Hunan High Court to retry Tan’s case. However, it was not until 2009 that the Hunan court started to review the case. And it took another two years before Tan’s name was finally cleared.

In a written statement before his final trial, Tan said: “This is the most difficult, painful and costly experience of my life. Any other experiences cannot compare. I sincerely hope our judicial system can pay attention to even the smallest mistakes in any case. Even if they are correct in 99.99 percent of the cases, courts cannot ignore the 0.01 percent of injustice.”

Tan’s lawyer also noted that his client had been forced to sign a confession, which made justice in the first trial impossible. “If the inspectors hadn’t used force, judicial officials could have handled the case in accordance with law, and lawyers’ opinions would have been respected,” he said.

This case reminded me of several cases that CLB has been involved in that have dragged on for many years without reaching a proper solution.

Take the case of the community teachers in Liaoning for example: From 2005 to 2007, some 68 teachers, most of them with more than 20 years’ teaching experience, were unfairly laid off with no financial compensation. Forced to give up their teaching career, these teachers had to rely on farming for a living. They petitioned for redress but their representatives were detained. In February 2010, their lawyer filed a lawsuit against the local government, but, one year later, in contravention of procedure, the court has still not stated whether of not it will accept the case.

In another case, Xiao Huazhong, a former coal miner with black-lung disease, spent three years battling the local authorities and courts trying to get compensation from his former boss, a local coal baron with a lot of power and influence in the county.

The courts refused to help and in the end it was the intervention of the media, together with occupational disease activist Zhang Haichao, that put the local labour bureau and trade union under sufficient pressure to resolve Xiao’s case.
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