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Sentence cut for ex-official rapped

THERE has been a fierce outcry after a former official jailed for bribery has had years cut off his sentence for writing books behind bars.

Zhang Erjiang, former secretary of the Tianmen City Committee of the Communist Party of China, had his 15-year sentence reduced by three-and-a-half years, prison authorities in the central Hubei Province announced on Monday.

The Hubei Provincial Bureau of Prison Management said the decision reflected Zhang's "good behavior in rehabilitating himself by writing and publishing four books in prison."

Zhang, a graduate of Wuhan University who majored in history, completed four books on China's classical literature after he was jailed in 2002.

But a flood of criticism and doubts appeared on the Internet after the move was announced, with critics taking aim at the quality of his books and the legal validity of the sentence reduction. "A book written by a corrupt official is destined to be corrupt," said an anonymous comment on the Internet.

Under Chinese law, every prisoner, except those deprived of their political rights, can write books in prison. But only those who have shown true repentance or outstanding behavior could have their sentences reduced.

"I do not think writing and publishing books can be counted as 'outstanding' behavior in prison," said Zhao Bingzhi, secretary-general of the Beijing-based China Law Science Society Criminal Law Research Institute.

"Authorities making such decisions should be cautious," Zhao added.

Hubei prison authorities remained silent. One official declined to comment since "any comments on Zhang are now sensitive."


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