Chinese Law Prof Blog

Editor: Donald C. Clarke
George Washington University Law School

Friday, April 20, 2012

Supreme People's Court overturns death sentence for Wu Ying on review

The case of Wu Ying, a rags-to-riches billionaire convicted of "fundraising fraud" and sentenced to death, attracted a great deal of attention in China - this time, because a substantial element of popular opinion was against her death sentence. As the Los Angeles Times reports,

Critics of the death sentence, some of them prominent businessmen, had denounced it as a step backward for China's largely state-controlled legal system. Many claimed that Wu’s fundraising strategy was no different from that of most Chinese entrepreneurs and that the ruling would have a chilling effect on private enterprise.

And Caixin writes,

Wu had public sympathy on her side. Many argued that she was a scapegoat for the defects in China's formal lending network. Lawyers and scholars across the country pleaded for leniency, citing the potential impact on private lending systems, through which companies and individuals provide crucial, albeit risky and sometimes costly, financing for one another beyond the formal banking system.

All death sentences are subject to mandatory review by the Supreme People's Court, and it just overturned the sentence and returned the case to the Zhejiang Province High Court for retrial. At this point it seems likely that the most she'll get is a death sentence with a two-year reprieve, which in practice is almost always later commuted to life imprisonment. This would not, of course, be a just result if her supporters' take on the case is correct, but it leaves open the possibility of a later leniency in the way a death penalty does not.

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