The former head of a state-owned power company in China, currently on trial for corruption charges, does not seem to have helped his case by reading a four-page apology letter in court this week. While the apology seems to have been lengthy, and tearful, it also turned out to have been plagiarized from an apology somebody else had used less than two weeks before.
I should also note here for Western readers that typically, reading a lengthy "apology" during your trial is not a defense strategy we would recommend. In China you may not have a choice.
Someone allegedly noticed that Zhang Shaocang’s apology appeared quite similar to one that had been written by Zhu Fuzhong, a former village Communist party official, and that had been previously published in an official paper. Plagiarism? You be the judge:
- Zhu wrote: "Before working, I never gave much thought to money and regarded achievement as the starting point and end result of my work. . . . I gradually lost my bearings and the scope of my position."
- Zhang wrote: "Before working, I never gave much thought to money and regarded achievement as the starting point and end result of my work. . . . I gradually lost my bearings and the scope of my position."
Well, that does look suspicious.
On the other hand, presumably neither man wrote his apology in English. And this report originated in the "Procuratorial Daily," which Reuters described as "the official paper of China’s top prosecutions office," not a very neutral source. Reuters says that the Procuratorial Daily "is distributed as reading material at many ‘supervision venues,’ [the term for] the often secret locations where Communist Party officials are held for questioning." So I guess the allegation is that Mr. Zhang "stole" the apology from the reading material in the waiting room at his "supervision venue."
Forgive me for saying this seems a little like criticizing a Gitmo detainee for quoting somebody he heard on FOX News while waiting for his hearing. (What do you think they have on in the waiting room — NPR?) He could very well be a criminal, but accusing him of plagiarism seems like piling on.
Because of the similarities, the court dismissed Zhang’s apology as "show-boating." So he’ll be executed for that, too.