It only happens in about 15% of the death sentences that it reviews, but last Thursday China’s Supreme Court awarded a stay of execution. The beneficiary was high-profile too: rags-to-riches entrepreneur Wu Ying, previously sentenced to death for underground lending.
Wu’s supporters had been hoping for just such an outcome since China’s Premier Wen Jiabao told reporters in March that her case would be handled “carefully”.
The court has done more than review her sentence, which would normally imply life in prison as an alternative punishment. It has also sent the case back to Wu’s home province of Zhejiang for a retrial, a move that could result in a lighter punishment.
As regular readers of WiC will know, Wu was found guilty of illegal fundraising and fraud. But much has changed since her original trial. The private lending in which Wu took part might now be legalised too (see WiC145).
Newspapers were unanimous in their praise of the court’s decision though some cautioned against making Wu into a hero.
“This decision reflects the rule of law and the beauty of humanity,” gushed an opinion piece on the government-run news portal China.com.cn, without mentioning that Wu has lived with the threat of death for over two years.
Others, including the Global Times, declared it “a victory for public opinion” after netizens, legal scholars and journalists had all taken up Wu’s case. Netizens were thrilled by the news, though a few still had questions.“It’s not enough that they will not kill Wu Ying. We also need to examine what roles [Zhejiang] officials played in this, and why they want her dead so much,” netizen Maodoudou wrote on his weibo account.
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