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No stone should be left unturned in 'bridge case'

By Zhao Jun | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2023-07-11 11:09

In the ongoing bridge case, no stone should be left unturned before reaching a conclusion.

In 2014, Huang Deyi, a resident of Zhenlin village in Baicheng city of Jilin province, and his friends built a floating bridge on the Taoer River, spending more than 130,000 yuan ($17,970). It is reported that the bridge reduced the journey across the river by 70 kilometers.

In October 2018, however, the local water conservancy bureau fined Huang, saying he had built the bridge illegally, and asked him to dismantle it.

And in December 2019, the local people's court found Huang and 17 others guilty of provocation and troublemaking, and handed down different punishment on probation.

On the one hand, it's natural that a number of netizens have sympathized with Huang and his friends while criticizing the local water conservancy bureau for being too harsh on them, especially because the much-needed bridge, although listed in the local development plan, is still to be built, leaving people with no option but to travel long distances to get from one side of the Taoer River to the other. Some villagers have even lost their lives trying to cross the river.

On the other hand, people should wait for the whole truth comes out before jumping to conclusions. The key issue here is whether Huang and his friends can be charged with provocation and troublemaking for building a floating bridge and charging vehicles a fee to use the bridge and cut their long journey short.

According to news reports, the action of Huang and his friends possibly doesn't fall under the category of forceful coercion or extortion. Considering that they charged a fee only from those wishing to use the bridge, the fee cannot be called coercion or extortion even though Huang and his friends were not authorized by the relevant authorities to collect it. This makes the whole truth vital in the case.

Although the floating bridge may not meet the standards set by the authorities, its construction does not necessarily attract the charge of provocation and troublemaking. And the need to make travel convenient has to be adequately addressed first.

Truth will have the final say in the bridge case.

Zhao Jun is a professor of law at the Beijing Normal University Law School. This is an excerpt of his interview with China Daily's Liu Jianna. The views don't necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

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