In 1996, China executed an 18-year-old man named Huugjilt for the rape and murder of a woman in a public toilet. But Monday, Chinese authorities cleared the ethnic Mongolian of the crime and offered a rare apology to his family.
The official Xinhua news agency reported that Huugjilt was found guilty of raping and murdering the woman in Hohhot, the regional capital of Inner Mongolia, on April 9, 1996. He was sentenced to death and executed two months later. The news agency reported that another man had confessed the crime after his arrest in 2005.
A retrial for Huugjilt, who like many ethnic Mongolians uses one name, was held last month. In it, he was cleared of the charges.
Xinhua published photographs from Hohhot of Huugjilt's mother crying upon receiving the documents clearing her son.
Shang Aiyun, 62, said she would burn a copy of the court's ruling in front of her son's grave to "comfort his spirit that has been suffering from the pain of a wrongful charge," Xinhua reported.
The Associated Press added that the family received the equivalent of around $5,000 "as an expression of the court's sympathy and were told they could claim an unspecified amount of compensation."
Xinhua reported that Huugjilt's arrest, sentencing and execution took 61 days and came "amid China's sweeping national campaign to strike hard against criminal activities, when public security, procuratorial organs and courts were encouraged to take swift and severe measures in dealing with criminal cases."