SAN FRANCISCO (JULY 2, 2024) – Information posted on the websites of Sichuan judicial authorities provides an update on Li Yan (李彦), a Sichuan woman and victim of domestic abuse who was convicted of murdering her abusive husband in 2010. She was subsequently sentenced to death, a decision that was reversed by the Supreme People’s Court (SPC). The SPC ordered the Sichuan High People’s Court to conduct a retrial, which resulted in a sentence of death with two-year reprieve.

In consequential decisions, the Sichuan High Court commuted Li’s death penalty with two-year reprieve sentence to a life sentence in 2017. Then, in March 2021, the court commuted her life sentence to a 25-year fixed-term sentence with nine years’ deprivation of political rights.

Below is Dui Hua’s translation of the recommendation for sentence reduction submitted to the Chengdu Intermediate People’s Court on July 17, 2023, by the Sichuan Women’s Prison, where Li is currently being held. Two months later, the Chengdu Intermediate People’s Court approved a seven-month sentence reduction for Li. This marks the first act of clemency Li received since her sentence was commuted from a life sentence to a fixed–term sentence.

The women’s prison determined that Li had displayed good behavior, showed remorse, and engaged in labor and ideological reform. Moreover, the prison noted that Li had paid the financial compensation ordered in the accompanying civil lawsuit. Courts often view paying compensation to victims and their families as evidence that the prisoner has accepted criminal responsibility.

Li, now 53, is scheduled for release on August 18, 2045, when she will be 74 years old. It is possible, if not likely, that she will be granted more sentence reductions.

Dui Hua learned of the clemency given to Li a decade after hosting a 2014 international symposium which brought together Chinese and international expert presenters in Hong Kong to discuss women in prison and the Bangkok Rules. At the time, Li’s case was the subject of intense domestic and international interest. More than 400 Chinese lawyers and legal scholars had signed a letter to the Supreme People’s Court pleading for Li’s life to be spared. International human rights organizations, including Dui Hua, also urged clemency.

For questions, please contact The Dui Hua Foundation.

(Translated by The Dui Hua Foundation)



(2023) Sichuan Women’s Prison Criminal Penalty Change No. 482

Prisoner Li Yan, female, born February 3, 1971, Han ethnicity, middle-school education; occupation prior to arrest: worker; original residence: Anyue County, Sichuan; currently incarcerated in Ward Six of the Sichuan Women’s Prison.

[Li] was convicted for murder and sentenced by the Sichuan Province Ziyang Intermediate People’s Court on August 24, 2011, in the criminal judgment (2011) Ziyang First Instance Criminal Trial No. 27 with a supplemental civil litigation decision. Li was sentenced to death with a deprivation of political rights for life and obligated to pay compensation of 58,212 yuan to the plaintiff of civil lawsuit.

Defendant Li Yan appealed the judgment. The Sichuan High People’s Court on February 27, 2015 issued criminal judgment (2014) Sichuan Final Instance Criminal Trial No. 411 and revoked the first decision of the Ziyang Intermediate People’s Court criminal judgment (2011) Ziyang First Instance Criminal Trial No. 27, namely, the defendant Li Yan was convicted of murder and sentenced to death with deprivation of political rights for life; [the High Court] convicted Li Yan of murder and sentenced [her] to death with reprieve of two years, with deprivation of political rights for life. The period of reprieve lasted from April 24, 2015, to April 23, 2017.

[Li] was admitted to this prison on August 14, 2015.

Penalty changes during incarceration: the Sichuan High People’s Court issued the (2017) Sichuan Criminal Penalty Change Decision No. 509 on September 8, 2017, commuting [Li’s sentence] to life imprisonment; the Sichuan High People’s Court issued (2021) Sichuan Criminal Penalty Change Decision No. 156 on March 19, 2021, commuted [Li’s sentence] to a fixed term imprisonment of twenty-five years with deprivation of political rights for nine years, sentence after commutation to expire on March 18, 2046.

The said prisoner has demonstrated repentance during serving the sentence. Specific facts are as follows:

  1. In respect to ideological understanding: under the education by the prison wardens, the prisoner admits and repents her crime, deeply understands the crime she committed violated the personal rights of the victim, and [she] is determined to act as a law-abiding person for the rest of [her] life.
  2. In respect to observing and obeying regulations and rules: she was able to earnestly study “Prisoner Behavior Standards” and “Rules for Twenty Strictly Forbidden Acts by Prisoners,” able to observe and obey prison regulations and rules in general, abide by administration, and accept education and reform.
  3. In respect of education: [Li] vigorously participated in the courses of ideology, education, and work skills organized by the prison.
  4. In respect of reform through labor: the said prisoner was able to vigorously learn work procedures, and able to complete work assignments.

Moreover, [Li] has fulfilled the obligation of compensating the plaintiff in the supplemental civil litigation decision, for a total of 58,212 yuan.

During the current evaluation period, prisoner Li Yan has received seven commendations. The assessment concludes that [Li] has demonstrated repentance.

In sum, prisoner Li Yan admitted and repented her crime, observed and obeyed regulations and rules, observed and obeyed prison regulations and rules in general, accepted education and reform, participated in ideology, education, and work skills learning, participated in labor and completed work assignments, and has demonstrated repentance while incarcerated. The said prisoner is a criminal sentenced for murder to death with reprieve of two years, and was severely punished in accordance with the law.

Therefore, in accordance with the provisions of Article 29 of the Prison Law, Article 78 of the Criminal Law, and Article 273(2) of the Criminal Procedure Law of the People’s Republic of China, [the prison] recommends granting prisoner Li Yan a sentence reduction of seven months while her nine-year deprivation of political rights remains unchanged. Hereby submitting for decision.


[TO] Sichuan Chengdu Intermediate People’s Court

Sichuan Women’s Prison

July 17, 2023