Court orders retrials in three property cases
High-profile defendants will have another chance to clear names
The Supreme People’s Court announced on Thursday the retrial of three major property rights-related cases, it said in a statement.
The high-profile criminal cases of Gu Chujun, former chairman of Guangdong Kelon Electrical Holdings Co; and Zhang Wenzhong, former chairman of Wumei Holdings, parent of retail chain Wumart Stores, will be heard by the top court and its circuit court.
Gu, 58, worked his way up from an entry-level technician to a tycoon with several large refrigeration and appliance companies. He was arrested in 2005. A final court ruling by the Guangdong High People’s Court in 2009 sentenced Gu to 10 years in prison for falsifying and withholding information and embezzlement. He also was fined 6.8 million yuan ($1.03 million).
In September 2012, after serving his term in prison, Gu filed a petition to the Supreme People’s Court denying all charges and also reported wrongdoings of four officials. The top court said in a statement on Thursday that it has reviewed Gu’s case and believes it is eligible for a retrial according to China’s Criminal Procedure Law.
In a separate case, Zhang, 55, was fined and sentenced to 12 years in prison for fraud, embezzlement and a briberyrelated crime in a final ruling by the Hebei High People’s Court in 2009. Zhang first petitioned that court but was rejected in December 2015. He filed a petition to the top court in October 2016, which, after reviewing the case, decided to grant a retrial.
In a third case, which involves an equity transfer dispute, the Jiangsu High People’s Court has decided to overturn previous court rulings on the basis of unclear facts and has instructed the Nanjing Intermediate People’s Court to retry the case.
The Supreme People’s Court said in the statement released on Thursday that courts around China need to strictly distinguish between economic disputes and economic crimes, clarifying the boundary between financing and illegal fundraising as well as better defining what kinds of behaviors from private enterprises can be categorized as embezzlement of state assets.
The retrials have shown that the people’s courts around China will further protect people’s property right and create a healthy environment for entrepreneurs so they can play a more important role in society, according to an editorial being published in People’s Daily on Friday.
Protecting the public’s property rights is the foundation of achieving a sustainable and healthy social and economic development. It also can help boost people’s confidence and drive them to be more innovative in economic development, the editorial said.
The Supreme People’s Court also said that any operational activity of private enterprises should not be treated as an offense or crime unless it is clearly prohibited by laws and regulations. The presumption of guilt principle should be banned in such instances.
Furthermore, Party and government officials are strictly banned from interfering with individual cases. The decision to order retrials shows the court’s determination to implement a guideline issued by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and the State Council in November 2016 on better protection of property rights in an effort to shore up social confidence and promote social justice, the top court said in the statement.
Legal procedures should be expanded concerning sealing, freezing, auctioning or other disposal methods of property belonging to enterprises or individuals suspected of crimes, it stressed.