China to pay more for miscarriage of justice

Compensation for each day of wrongful jailing increases to $52

BEIJING • China has increased its compensation for wrongful jailing to 258 yuan (S$52) for every day of incarceration, despite concerns about whether it is right to put a price on freedom.

"In the case of an infringement of a citizen's personal freedom, the daily compensation shall be based on the state's daily average wage last year," the Supreme People's Procuratorate said, when the new rate came into effect yesterday.

The figure for last year was 242 yuan per day, according to Hong Kong's South China Morning Post (SCMP).

China has occasionally exonerated wrongfully executed or jailed convicts after others came forward to confess their crimes, or in some cases because the supposed murder victim was later found alive.

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In February last year, China's highest court acquitted and freed a man who was given a suspended death sentence - which is normally commuted to life imprisonment - due to "lack of evidence". But not before he had spent more than 20 years behind bars.

Mr Chen Man, who was in his 50s at the time of regaining his freedom, was convicted of a 1994 murder in the southern island province of Hainan.

A Hainan court, which upheld Mr Chen's suspended death sentence in 1999, agreed to pay him around 2.75 million yuan for loss of personal freedom and mental suffering.

Of those exonerated in recent years, Mr Chen spent the longest time in prison, state media said.

For others, the new verdicts came far too late.

A man named Hugjiltu was cleared of rape and murder in 2014, nearly two decades after he was convicted and executed at the age of 18 in Inner Mongolia.

The declaration of his innocence came nine years after another man confessed to the crime.

China had approved 10,881 cases of state compensation for wrongful incarceration for 2014 and 2015, paying out 113.4 million yuan in total, the SCMP reported, citing a government White Paper released last year.

An editorial in the state-run People's Daily last year questioned the use of standard daily wage as a basis for compensation.

"Is it appropriate to equate the loss of personal freedom for 24 hours to a day job of eight hours?" it asked.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 01, 2017, with the headline 'China to pay more for miscarriage of justice'. Print Edition | Subscribe