By Sasha Padbidri
This week, the Chinese Supreme People’s Court overturned the death sentence of 31-year-old Wu Ying, who was convicted of financial fraud in 2007. Wu, who had amassed a fortune of 3.6 billion RMB (US $567 million) by the time she was 25, allegedly cheated investors the Madoff-esque sum of nearly $60.2 million between the span of 2005-2007, and was sentenced to death in late 2009.
After reviewing the Wu case of fundraising fraud, the supreme court, China’s top court, sent the case back to the Zhejiang Higher People’s Court for resentencing, Xinhua was told Friday.
The SPC held that the facts of the case were clear, the evidence was sufficient, and the nature of the crime Wu committed had been determined accurately in the verdicts which were made by lower courts.
Meanwhile, the New York Times reports that the Supreme People’s Court decision is yet another indication of the power of internet public opinion:
“This is a victory for Internet public opinion in China,” wrote Hu Xijin, the editor of Global Times, a populist newspaper that often takes a nationalistic line. “I still say this: No murder, no death penalty. This applies to everyone.”
He Bing, the outspoken vice dean of the law school at the China University of Political Science and Law, wrote, “It should be recognized that the Internet provides a convenient venue for public supervision of justice.”
Throughout her career, Wu was seen as a classic example of the ‘rags-to-riches’ story. A farmer’s daughter and a vocational school dropout, Wu worked at her aunt’s hair salon and began to make huge profits by selling sheep placenta extract, a dubious but highly coveted anti-ageing product in China. (Yes, the wombs of domestic livestock will keep those wrinkles at bay!)
By the age of 25, she had become the 6th richest woman in China, and the 68th richest overall.
Supporters of Wu claim that her money is clean, and that the investors’ money had been used for private financing and loans. In China, such loans are hard to acquire from state banks, largely due to their strong preference for state-owned enterprises over private enterprises.
Because of this case, the government has been forced to review the requirements for entrepreneurs to obtain loans, as well as reconsider the harsh penalties for financial fraud, with Wen Jiabao even chiming in that Wu’s case “must be handled on the basis of real facts”.