Death sentences reversed in China rape case: Report

BEIJING (AFP) - A Chinese court overturned death sentences imposed on two men who allegedly forced into prostitution the daughter of a social campaigner, media reported on Friday, the latest development in the high-profile case.

The girl's case drew widespread attention in China after her mother, Tang Hui, was put into the now-defunct "re-education through labour" system for campaigning for justice for her daughter.

The Supreme People's Court on Thursday ruled that the men's actions in forcing the girl into prostitution did not constitute "the most serious" crime under Chinese law, the state-run China Daily said.

Qin Xing and Zhou Junhui are being held on charges of kidnapping, raping and forcing the girl to engage in prostitution more than 100 times from October until December 2006 in Yongzhou, in central China's Hunan province.

The death sentences were handed to the men because of the more serious charge of forcing the girl into prostitution.

The Court's ruling said that a retrial would be held, but did not make reference to the other charges, indicating that only the prostitution charge would be reconsidered.

"The top court said the most serious crimes according to the law are those in which a person who is primarily responsible for a criminal offence forces several girls into prostitution, forces them into prostitution in public multiple times after detaining and kidnapping them, or whose coercion is so brutal it handicaps or kills the victims," the China Daily said.

Seven men in total were convicted for crimes relating to the girl in June 2012, with four given life sentences, one jailed for 15 years, and Qin and Zhou receiving death penalties.

Tang continued to agitate for policemen that she claimed protected the men to face trial, and soon afterwards she was sentenced for "seriously disturbing social order and exerting a negative impact on society".

She became a figurehead for critics of "re-education through labour" after she was condemned to 18 months in a camp, but was released after only a week and won damages last year against her sentencing.

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