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Lawbreaker at large?

(China Daily) Updated: 2016-01-04 07:45

Lawbreaker at large?

Inmates do exercises at a jail in Wuhan, Central China's Hubei province. [File photo/Asianewsphoto]

While serving a nine-month sentence for running a gambling den, a prisoner in a county jail in East China's Jiangxi province enjoyed sex service. The prostitute was escorted in by a police warden, who was bribed. After the scandal came to light, the officer was stripped of his post for merely "discipline violation".

That was dramatic, because things went wrong at every link.

Corrupt officials take bribes and open the "backdoor" to illicit dealings. Once caught, they get lenient treatment until a public backlash puts unbearable pressure on the authorities to take stricter action.

The jailhouse drama in Jiangxi is proceeding precisely that way.

The price of the cigarettes the police warden got may not qualify for prosecution in a courtroom. But it was a bribe all the same. And both his identities as a law enforcement officer and Party member prevent him from taking bribes.

What he did was undoubtedly wrong.

But local authorities apparently chose to treat him with kid gloves, and that is what many wrongdoing officials anticipate. By labeling what the warden did as simply "discipline violation" they have committed an outrage against regulations. No wonder the public outcry is so strong.

As a law enforcement officer, a police warden should know prostitution is outlawed in this country. Even if, as he claimed afterward, he had not been aware of the woman's identity as a prostitute, he cannot escape legal liability for facilitating prostitution.

It is important to investigate the truthfulness of his claim, because Article 359 of the Criminal Law says providing shelter for prostitution qualifies for a fixed-term sentence of five years or less, criminal detention or public surveillance, and shall be fined at the same time.

It is also important to find out whether this was the only time he took a bribe and facilitated illicit activities in law enforcement facilities.

At stake is the credibility of the local authorities.

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