Changing Media, Changing China

By Susan L. Shirk | Go to book overview

7
Changing Media, Changing
Courts

Benjamin L. Liebman

SHE XIANGLIN’S CASE helped to bring him back from near death; it also made him a wealthy man. In 1994, She’s wife, Zhang Zaiyu, disappeared from their home village in rural Hubei Province; Zhang Zaiyu’s family accused She of killing her. After local police found the body of an unidentified female in a nearby water tower, they charged She with murder. She Xianglin was sentenced to death; on appeal, the Hubei Province High People’s Court sent the case back for retrial due to insufficient evidence. On retrial, a local county court sentenced She Xianglin to fifteen years in prison for intentional homicide.

In March 2005, the case received media attention when Zhang Zaiyu returned to the village—proving that her husband had not killed her. An initial report on Zhang Zaiyu’s return ran in a paper in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei. Following the article, local authorities banned further reporting on the case pending an official investigation, and instructed the media to use only an officially approved report on the case. Nonetheless, news quickly spread online and to newspapers elsewhere in China, and a few weeks later, on 15 April, She Xianglin was released from custody. Media coverage of the case also appeared to assist She Xianglin in obtaining RMB 460,000 in

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