False arrest puts police protocol in question

Updated: 2013-12-12 01:01

By CAO YIN and HOU LIQIANG (China Daily)

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Legal experts blamed the wrongful arrest of a woman by Qinghai authority on police "carelessness" and said law enforcement across the nation must be more thorough in verifying people's identity before taking them into custody.

On Nov 24, Qinghai police wrongly identified Liu Li as a fugitive and took her away from her home province of Hunan.

She was kept in custody for almost two weeks in Qinghai before her release on Friday.

"I told the police officer I didn't even know where Qinghai is, but he thought I lied," Liu told China Central Television after her release.

Xining police wrote in an online statement on Wednesday that the fugitive had been using Liu's name, ID card number and personal information and had stolen clothing worth over 10,000 yuan ($1,650) from several department stores in Xining, Qinghai.

The Xining police apologized to Liu on Wednesday and assured her that the officer who arrested her, Zhang Junzhi, will be suspended for 30 days.

Experts said police negligence partly led to Liu's false arrest.

Dai Peng at the People's Public Security University of China said officers sometimes only verify a person's identity once or merely glance at an ID card, a "careless" behavior.

Wang Qi, a police officer in Beijing's Haidian district, said the wrongful arrest also points to an increasingly serious national problem of identity theft.

"Some people are making fake ID cards based on lost ID cards or from online purchases of personal information," said associate professor Liu Tao at the People's Public Security University of China.

Liu Li lost her ID card in July 2012 but did not report it, according to her husband.

Her husband told CCTV the Xining police should be responsible to compensate them.

The fugitive who impersonated Liu Li was actually arrested earlier in November in Xining but fled after posting bail.

That month, a pregnant woman who identified herself as Liu Li was caught stealing in a department store. She later confessed to stealing clothes from another department store in the city, local police said.

In accordance with Chinese Criminal Procedure Law, the pregnant woman was released after posting 2,000 yuan in bail, according to the police.

After her release, the police sent several letters to summon her but received no response. She was then listed as a fugitive on Nov 19.