The woman, identified by court documents only by her surname Fang, was from China’s eastern Shandong province. She died on January 31, 2019, according to the Xinhua report.
Yucheng People’s Court in Shandong heard the woman’s husband and in-laws abused her, denied her food, and left her outside in freezing temperatures in winter as a form of punishment.
In January, they were found guilty of abuse, a charge applied when the alleged perpetrators are family members. It carries a maximum sentence of seven years in prison.
Fang’s husband and his parents were later sentenced to between two and three years in prison. The court had decided to grant a more lenient punishment because “each defendant was able to truthfully confess the relevant facts of the crime, which constituted a confession, and showed repentance,” according to the verdict, published by state-run newspaper People’s Daily.
The sentences prompted nationwide outcry and discussion about broader societal problems surrounding women and violence. A retrial was ordered in April but it failed to calm public criticism.
On Weibo, a popular Chinese social media platform similar to Twitter, the story’s hashtag page had been viewed 290 million times, with many leaving comments expressing their disgust and disbelief.
“Selling toy guns and writing small pornographic books are all punishable by 10 years. Is a life so worthless?” wrote on user on Weibo.
On Tuesday, in the face of growing public outrage, the Yucheng People’s Court reposted the April statement ordering the retrial.
The retrial wasn’t ordered due to a perceived miscarriage of justice — rather, it was sent back because of a technicality.
“The court of the first instance did not have an open trial and failed to protect the statutory litigation rights of the appellant Yang, which violated the legal proceedings,” said the court’s statement.