A procuratorate in Lushan county, Henan province, initiated public prosecution of a teenage rape suspect on Tuesday, in the wake of a huge public uproar over an earlier announcement that the two families involved reached a settlement through the procuratorate's mediation efforts.
In a statement issued by the Henan Provincial People's Procuratorate, which oversees the Lushan procuratorate, the procuratorate said the wording of the earlier announcement was "incorrect" and caused "very bad social influence". It was also wrong to report on the case when it is still unfinished.
On July 17, Lushan police detained a 16-year-old boy who was suspected of raping a 17-year-old girl. The Lushan procuratorate approved the arrest on July 24.
The Lushan procuratorate had said on Sept 19 the boy was released on bail on Aug 27 pending trial, after the two families reached an agreement mediated by the procuratorate. The suspect's family paid the victim's family 80,000 yuan ($11,560) in compensation.
The county procuratorate also said it had received a pennant of gratitude from the suspect's mother in an article published via its social media, with a photo of the prosecutors holding the pennant.
"My son finally went back to school. We cannot be more grateful to the prosecutors," the article quoted the suspect's mother as saying.
The parents of both families "buried the hatchet" under the advice of the prosecutor, said the article, which enumerated the procuratorate's efforts to arrange a settlement between the two sides.
The article quickly drew a backlash from the public, who questioned how a criminal case like rape could be reconciled.
Zhang Jianwei, a law professor at Tsinghua University, told China National Radio that out-of-court settlement is possible for some criminal cases. However, it is usually not applicable to felony cases such as rape.
Prosecutors may have taken the fact that the suspect is a minor into consideration in this case, he said.
The Henan procuratorate said the boy is a middle school student and confessed his guilt. After the approval of the victim's family, he was released on bail according to law.
Zhang Ping, a publicity official from the Henan Provincial People's Procuratorate, said "release on bail pending trial" doesn't mean the case is over.
However, the procuratorate in Lushan used many incorrect wordings that gave the impression that the case was over and no charges would be brought against the boy, Zhang said.
The provincial procuratorate has ordered the Lushan procuratorate to strengthen the training of its staff.
Qi Xin contributed to this story.