Eleven people in Yunnan, including a former senior prisons official and a local high court judge, have been detained over their possible roles in helping a criminal who had been given the death penalty escape punishment.
The case of Sun Xiaoguo came to light after a central inspection group on Sunday demanded a thorough investigation of how he appeared to have escaped justice. The high-profile case has triggered widespread public concern over possible corruption in the judicial and prison systems.
The case of Sun Xiaoguo came to light after a central inspection group on Sunday demanded a thorough investigation of how he appeared to have escaped justice
Sun, from Kunming, Yunnan province, has a long list of criminal convictions dating back to the 1990s. In 1995, he was convicted of rape and sentenced to three years in jail. But he did not serve any prison time due to a fake sickness record offered by his mother. In 1998, Sun was sentenced to death for multiple crimes including rape and intentional injury, according to official records.
The Beijing News reported that he was released in 2012 after multiple reductions in his sentence.
However, a local newspaper in Kunming reported in late April this year that several criminal gangs, including one led by Sun, had been smashed in the latest crackdown on gang-related crimes. Sun was arrested and is in custody.
Nine suspects have been formally arrested and 23 detained for taking part in crimes lead by Sun, according to a statement released on Tuesday by the provincial group leading the crackdown on gang-related crimes.
But Sun's true identity and long criminal history only came to light after his latest arrest.
Follow-up stories in the national media discovered that Sun, who had changed his name to Li Linchen, was the same man convicted in 1998. Questions were asked about how he apparently escaped death and had been living as a free man.
After his release, Sun assumed the name Li and ran several businesses including a number of nightclubs in Kunming. It was reported that locals nicknamed him Big Boss Li.
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The story also sparked public speculation about Sun's family connections, which are widely believed to have sheltered his illegal activities.
The Tuesday release said Sun's mother, Sun Heyu, was a former police officer who was sacked in 1994 and sentenced to prison in 1998 for covering up her son's rape case.
Sun's stepfather Li Qiaozhong was once a deputy police chief in the Wuhua district of Kunming, and was removed from the position in 1998 for helping Sun get out of jail illegally. Both are currently under detention for further investigation.
Speculation was rife that Sun's biological father was an influential person. However, the release identified him as "a staff member of a local unit in Kunming" who suffered a stroke in 1996 and died in 2016.
Local authorities are further investigating how Sun got his death sentence changed and reduced, and promised to make the information public.
Previous media reports said a patent under Sun's name called "linkage locking-type anti-theft manhole cover", which was registered in 2008, played a role in the reduction of his penalty after it was identified as a "major contribution" by local judicial authorities.
Tuesday's statement said the innovation was not made by Sun, and was an excuse used by his parents to get his sentence reduced with the help of prison officers and the court. Four officers are under investigation for fraud.
The Standing Committee of the Yunnan Committee of the Communist Party of China, the highest decision-making body in the province, on Tuesday ordered a thorough investigation into all civil servants who helped shelter Sun, and promised they will be punished according to the law no matter how high they are ranked.
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