Man who spent 15 years in prison after wrongful conviction says compensation not enough

Man who spent 15 years in prison after wrongful conviction says compensation not enough
PHOTO: China Daily/Asia News Network

A man who spent 15 years in prison in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region for a series of sex attacks he did not commit said on Wednesday he feels that the compensation he is being offered is too low.

Zhou Yuan, 48, was convicted of 38 counts of sexual assault on females in 1997. He was released from prison in 2012 and exonerated on appeal in November due to "unclear and insufficient evidence".

On Tuesday, the Xinjiang High People's Court offered Zhou 1.91 million yuan (S$396,250) in compensation as well as an official apology. However, he responded on Wednesday by saying he had talked with his lawyer and would likely reject the amount on offer.

"I was a handsome young man with all kinds of ambitions before I went to prison, and I walked out an old man who knew nothing about the fast-changing society," Zhou said. "Nothing can really compensate for that."

Police in Yining, began in 1991 to receive dozens of reports of women and girls being attacked in their sleep. The offender would break into their homes or dormitories and assault them with a knife and often molest them.

In 1997, Zhou was arrested after one such attack at a Yining secondary school and went on to confess to 38 attacks. At age 27, he was convicted of intentionally harming and molesting females and given a suspended death sentence. Zhou said he was forced into making a confession.

A year later, police arrested another suspect, Hou Yong, who confessed to crimes that matched those for which Zhou had been convicted. Hou was found guilty for six out of the 34 cases that he confessed to and was executed in 1999.

Compensation for those who are wrongfully convicted is usually divided into two parts: for loss of freedom and for emotional damage. The sum is calculated based on the time spent in prison multiplied by the average daily salary of a State employee in the year before the recipient's exoneration.

"I think I deserve more than is being offered," said Zhou, who has 30 days to decide if he wants to appeal the high court's decision.

Wang Xing, Zhou's lawyer, said the current compensation standard is still low.

"All these years, Zhou's mother has been traveling extensively to appeal for his son's innocence. The State Compensation Law should be revised to cover the cost of appeals," Wang said.

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