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October 22, 2009

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Probe ordered for entrapment claim

PUDONG New Area government in Shanghai has set up an investigative team consisting of lawmakers, lawyers and media representatives to probe allegations of government entrapment raised by a company driver who was accused of operating an illegal cab, officials said yesterday.

City government earlier ordered Pudong to get to the bottom of the charges, but on Tuesday, urban management quickly cleared transport supervisors of any wrongdoing. This latest probe indicates that investigation didn't go far enough.

"My mood has swung dramatically from low to the high with the news in the past 24 hours," said Sun Zhongjie, the 19-year-old driver charged in the incident. He was so angry over the accusation that he cut off a piece of a finger.

His case, which attracted national media attention, is the latest in a string of allegations that some traffic enforcement teams that are engaged in a crackdown on black cabs may be paying bounty hunters to set up innocent people on false charges. Enforcement agencies can benefit by collecting fines that range up to 10,000 yuan (US$1,464).

The incident occurred on Wednesday last week when Sun, employed by Shanghai Pangyuan Construction Machinery Engineering Co Ltd, was driving the company minibus to a supermarket in Pudong. On the way, he encountered a young man who claimed to be cold and begged for a ride, Sun said. Before Sun agreed, the man got into his vehicle and Sun drove on.

After about a five-minute ride, the man jumped out of the minibus and left 10 yuan behind, Sun said. At about the same time, Sun was stopped by two minibuses from which several men emerged.

Sun said he was forced to sign a penalty notice admitting he was operating an illegal cab or they wouldn't let him go. They then drove off in his vehicle and said he couldn't get it back without paying a fine.

Sun's company provided a lawyer to argue his innocence, and the attorney threatened to sue the traffic unit if the charges weren't dropped.

On Sunday, city government officials called on Pudong government to investigate the case and issue a prompt public report.

"Enforcement of traffic rules must conform to the law. Illegal enforcement will be punished if proved," a city government statement said.

Pudong urban management authorities launched an investigation into the case and issued a report on Tuesday, saying that the local transport supervisors' enforcement action was legitimate and the means of collecting evidence was "not inappropriate." The report concluded that Sun was conducting an "illegal cab operation."

"I was shocked by the report," Sun told Shanghai Daily yesterday.

He left the hospital on Sunday after surgery to reattach the portion of his little finger that he severed.

"I've had a mental breakdown," he said. "I felt their wrongdoing and my innocence can never be proved."

His mood brightened, however, when the Pudong New Area government said yesterday that it was setting up an investigative team made up of deputies to the Shanghai People's Congress, members of the city's top political advisory body, lawyers and media representatives.


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