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February 23, 2012

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Now it's a life sentence for man who seized boy

FACE down in silence, the prisoner seemed oblivious to everything around him in the courtroom except his cuffed hands when the judge called for all to rise and sentenced him to life in prison for abduction.

It may never have occurred to the prisoner during 12 years already served behind bars, and only about two months away to get out of jail, that he would be charged a second time and would never get his freedom.

The prisoner, Lu Shundong, was jailed for human trafficking in a case dating to 1999, when a boy went missing after being taken away from his parents. Lu was jailed for human trafficking for 15 years, not given a life sentence for kidnapping or murder because the evidence was lacking.

But at the Shanghai No. 2 Intermediate People's court yesterday, the judge handed him a life sentence for abduction, instead of human trafficking, as more critical witnesses had come forward with evidence showing he had kidnapped the boy, the court said.

The witnesses included his one and only good friend, who accused him of murdering the boy but then backed down when Lu confronted him in a previous court session. Even so, some other witnesses who had been Lu's fellow workers provided their evidence.

Lu kidnapped the boy from his boss to complain about low salary, the court said. The whereabouts of the boy, however, remains unknown.

"He drowned in a river. He was pushed into the river and washed away by huge backwash. He was sold to a rich family as a slave. He was left alone, then missing in a busy train station."

These are among the stories Lu has told police, the boy's parents and the court during past trials.

"I'm a raven holding a piece of meat on the tree, and you are all waiting in hunger down below," he once said to the police who followed his clues to search for the boy but came back empty-handed.

He never admitted killing the boy and he had been counting down the remaining days to April 27, when he should be set free. Now, at age 34, he realizes he'll never be free.

The boy's mother, Tang Weihua, 42, sobbed in the back row of the courtroom seats, her face hanging over her lap, her whole body rocking.

"Is that the end? Is it all over after a dozen years I have suffered?" she asked when falling into the arms of her sister.

The verdict also meant the end of her 12-year effort to track down her son, as she realized his true whereabouts would never be disclosed.

She told Shanghai Daily that she's planning to finish her book that will record all her experiences of searching for the boy and collecting evidence to alter the court decision before the prisoner could be freed.

The book will tell how she fired Lu as a worker from the shop she owned but then rehired him out of sympathy after he begged her, which turned out to be part of his plan to take her son away.

"I was racing with time, and fortunately I won," said Tang. "Now I may start living for myself and my family, for the first time after 12 years."


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