The lawyer responsible for the retrial of a Hebei man executed in 1995 has said that – if Nie Shubin is rehabilitated – the people’s faith in the justice system could be restored.

Li Shuting spoke to Caixin in an interview following an announcement last week that the Supreme Court will retry the controversial case.

“[The Hebei High Court] was not only unfair to the Nie family, it also made the people lose confidence in the country’s legal system,” Li said.

Nie Shubin. Photo: Sina.

Since Nie was executed in 1995 after being convicted of raping and killing a woman, there have been new developments in the case.

In 2005, another man – Wang Shujin – confessed to the crime in court, though the Hebei High Court ruled in 2013 that he was not the perpetrator.

A year later, the Supreme Court announced a decision to let the Shandong Higher People’s Court conduct another investigation into Nie’s case.

Nie’s mother speaking to Caixin after the Supreme Court’s decision for a retrial. Photo: Screenshot from Caixin video.

Li told Caixin that the police attach too much importance to testimony. “They don’t do a lot of hard, detailed investigation. [They] just trust that everything will come out of testimony,” he said.

The family says that Nie was beaten into a confession, though this was not verified by the Shandong court’s investigation. In turn, Wang told a Shandong court in 2015 that he was beaten into recanting his confession at a Hebei police station.

Wang Shujin in court. Photo: Sina.

“I’m very satisfied with the decision for a retrial. I’ve worked for twenty years, and today I finally see the light of justice shining through,” Nie’s mother told Xinhua reporters last week.

China has placed tighter checks on its death penalty rulings since 2012, a government report said this week. Amnesty International estimates that the country was still the world’s top executioner in 2015.

Catherine Lai

Catherine is a Canadian journalist and photographer who lived in Beijing for almost two years, working in TV and online media. Aside from Hong Kong and mainland affairs, she is also interested in urban spaces, art and feminism. She holds a BA in Literature and Art History from the University of British Columbia.