Liang Li can now undergo surgery to remove a tumor from her womb as a free woman.
The 40-year-old cleaner, who carried an abandoned jewelry box home from Shenzhen airport, had been remanded in pre-trial custody for 9 months before been granted bail two weeks ago.
On Friday, a local procuratorate in Shenzhen decided not to press charges against her for lack of enough evidence to prove she had committed theft. Instead, she is now a suspect for illegal possession, which is not a public prosecution case.
So on Friday the procuratorate sent the case back to the police department and asked it to hand over all relevant materials to a private prosecutor.
Liang was diagnosed with the tumor just after getting bail, and the procuratorate's decision on Friday will make it easier for her to face the scalpel on Sept 28.
"This is such a relief for our family", Liang's husband, Liu Jianhua, said on Friday. "We have been waiting long for this result."
Liang got help from an unexpected quarter while waiting for the Shenzhen authorities' decision on her appeal that she be allowed to undergo treatment in her hometown because it would be cheaper.
It was then that Tongren Hospital in Shenzhen offered to perform the surgery for free. "She has been in (Tongren) hospital for almost a week," Liu said.
Si Xianli, Liang's lawyer, said that although illegal possession is a lighter case than theft, he still thought she was not guilty. "Illegal possession means to take someone else's goods and refuse to give it back, but Liang returned the box to police," Si said.
Liang was working as a cleaner at Shenzhen airport, earning 1,000 yuan a month, when she picked up the box on Dec 9 that she later found contained jewelry worth 3 million yuan ($439,000). The box had been left behind by a man surnamed Wang.
Liang reportedly found the 14-kg box near a litterbin in the departure hall, assumed someone had forgotten it there and loaded it on her cart.
She did not open the box on the spot, she told investigators later. Instead, she took it to a toilet, called two of her colleagues and told them there could be a battery jar in the box.
The two colleagues opened the box, found it full of gold jewelry, took some of it and returned the box to Liang, who took the box home in the evening. An hour later, police came knocking on her door, and she handed over the box to them.
Police had claimed her action constitutes theft, an offense that carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.
(China Daily September 26, 2009)