Cherishing Integrity and Leadership: Not a Single Innocent Person Should Be Wrongfully Punished
(Minghui.org) Zeng Chongzi took office as the judicial official in today's Fujian Province in 1287 in the Yuan Dynasty (1271 – 1368 AD). The province wasremote, far from the capital city, so local officials abused their power and often deprived residents of their livelihood. This drove many of the residents to become thieves and bandits, who then went into hiding in the mountains and wetlands.
The first thing Zeng did when he took office was to post a public notice announcing that all thieves and bandits who turned themselves in would be pardoned. Encouraged by the sincerity conveyed in Zeng's notice, many took the chance and came to the government building. They lined up, knelt down, and turned themselves in. They were all pardoned and joined the ranks of law abiding residents.
When Wu Manqing, the top inspector in the imperial court, was told what Zeng had done, he was quite pleased and endorsed Zeng's strategy.
Refusing to Punish the Innocent
A robbery took place shortly after Zeng took office. Officials arrested 19 suspects, tried them, and sentenced them to death.
Upon reviewing the confessions in the case files, Zeng decided that none of the 19 were guilty of the robbery. He demanded that the case be re-opened and those who were innocent be released.
A regulation was in place that called for blaming local officials for incompetence if criminals were not caught in cases reported in the urban area. That meant that the officials involved in the investigation wanted those 19 people to be punished, thereby deflecting any blame on them. They opposed Zeng's decision to re-open the case. Zeng was angered.
“Losing my position if I don’t catch the real culprit isn't a big deal. What I don’t understand is how one could take the loss of 19 lives so lightly,” he said and used all his power to defend the innocence of the 19 suspects.
Not long after, the bandit who committed the crime was caught. In the face of hard evidence, the officials were ashamed of their selfishness and acknowledged Zeng's integrity and leadership.
Adapted from New History of Yuan Dynasty, Volume 229, Biography 125, Honest Officials