The limits of brotherly loyalty were tested in in China this week when a man was sentenced to life in prison for a crime that it seems he did not commit. In most countries you have to commit some sort of heinous, unspeakable act – in China you can just do what Shi Jianfeng’s was sentenced for: evade a bunch of road tolls.
Now don’t get me wrong, there was a significantly amount of criminality involved in what Shi Jianfeng was accused – the prosecution alleged that he was solely responsible for a scheme that involved trucks being fitted with military number plates so that they would not be charged a toll that amounted to several hundred dollars. In the course of his trial he was found to have evaded a staggering 2,362 tolls between May 2008 and January 2009, for a total amount of 3.7 million yuan ($560,000). The people, however, were sympathetic to his plight.
The public backlash to Jianfeng’s life sentence was strong enough that the court in Pingdingshan, Henan province decided that the best course of action was to order a retrial – but not before his apparently guilt-ridden brother, Shin Junfeng, confessed to being the man responsible for the toll fraud. Despite the confession, Junfeng had no intention of going quietly – he decided to take down a few corrupt officials while he was at it. Junfeng claimed that he had bribed officials in the lead-up to the first trial and that they had promised him that Jianfeng would be released quickly. Incidentally, in China corruption isone of the 68 crimes that carry the death penalty.