The brother of a Chinese farmer sentenced to life in prison for evading highway tolls has turned himself in to police and said he was the one responsible, an official and news reports said Sunday.
Shi Junfeng turned himself in Saturday night at the Wuliang public security bureau in Henan province, a duty officer surnamed Zhong said Sunday. He said he did not know the details of the case, which has triggered a public outcry over the heavy punishment.
Shi told police his imprisoned brother had taken the blame for him, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.
Shi’s brother, Shi Jianfeng, was sentenced last week to life imprisonment after being found guilty of evading a total of more than 3.68 million yuan ($560,000) in highway tolls. Fake military license plates were mounted on two trucks that carried gravel and avoided tolls more than 2,300 times because military vehicles are exempt.
After a massive public outcry over the heavy punishment, the court announced a retrial, saying the verdict might change because the defendant had told a new inquiry that he had been manipulated by a relative, Xinhua reported Friday.
Shi Junfeng told police he had offered bribes to officials after his brother’s detention and was promised he would be released soon, Xinhua said Sunday.
Chinese Internet users argued in posts and commentaries that the penalty was excessive because shorter sentences were imposed for the more serious crimes of rape and murder. The comments also strayed beyond Shi’s case to popular complaints that highway tolls are too high.
One legal expert said the severity of the sentence in Shi’s case resulted from the fact that military items, including uniforms, had been faked.