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May 30, 2017

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China jails US businessman for 20 years in mob trial

BEIJING -- A Chinese court sentenced a Chinese-American businessman to 20 years in prison on charges of heading a mob that illegally detained rivals and operated casinos, and rejected his claim that he was tortured by police.

The Guangzhou Intermediate People's Court said in a statement Thursday on its microblog that Vincent Wu operated illegal casinos that raked in 48 million yuan (US$7.8 million), got an associate to throw acid at a judge who ruled against him in a lawsuit and ordered thugs to use knives and bulldozers to threaten farmers who refused his offer of compensation to clear off land he wanted to develop.

About two dozen other defendants in the case received sentences of between 19 months and 19 years. Many of the defendants declared in court that they had been tortured by police — deprived of sleep or beaten — into confessing to assault, kidnapping and other violent crimes. About 20 of them recanted their confessions.

Wu's daughter, Anna Wu, and lawyer Wang Shihua said the sentence was unjust and excessive and that Wu would appeal. Wu's family says he's a law-abiding businessman whose rivals have framed him to seize his assets.

"We're very devastated, of course, because we did not expect it to be that bad, given that so many of the defendants said they had been tortured," Anna Wu said by phone. "No matter how many times we need to appeal, we will, until my dad is proven innocent."

China's leaders and its highest court have pledged to curtail miscarriages of justice that commonly occur because of the illegal use of torture to obtain confessions.

Such abuses are a focal point of public anger at the legal system and the Communist Party that controls it. Earlier this week, three police officers were found guilty of torturing a suspect in a southwest Chinese city but handed lenient sentences, sparking a flurry of criticism on Chinese social media.

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