A Chinese national has been sentenced to 20 years in jail for torturing local mineworkers in Rwanda after a video showing him whipping a man tied to a post went viral on social media.
Sun Shujun, the manager of a mine in the west of the country, was convicted on Tuesday along with an accomplice following his arrest last September.
“It is clear that (Sun) tortured the victims and issued corporal punishment with malicious intent, and this is a grave crime,” judge Jacques Kanyarukiga ruled, ordering him to serve a 20-year term in prison.
Sun, who was in court for the verdict, acknowledged assaulting two workers, saying he beat them because he was “frustrated and fed up of them constantly stealing minerals”.
The 43-year-old had argued for his release, saying he compensated the two by paying a total of more than one million Rwandan francs ($1,000) and signing a “reconciliation letter”.
However, the prosecution – which had accused him of assaulting four people – argued that the victims had accepted the payments “because they were traumatised and afraid of him”.
Another manager at the company, Ali Group Holding Ltd, was found guilty of helping Sun and sentenced to 12 years in jail. A third defendant was found not guilty.
Last September, a 45-second clip of one incident was widely shared on Twitter, showing a visibly enraged Chinese man using a rope to flog a man huddled on the ground and tied to a pole, as a small group of people in orange jackets looked on.
The mine produces cassiterite, a mineral that is the main ore of tin.
After the verdict by the court in the district of Rutsiro, Sun – who had been free on bail – was put into handcuffs and taken away by guards. He has up to 30 days to appeal.
The Chinese embassy in Rwanda said in a statement that it had “taken note” of the ruling.
“The embassy always asks Chinese citizens in Rwanda to abide by local laws and regulations,” it said.
“The embassy calls for the case to be handled appropriately in a rational, fair and just manner, and requests the legitimate rights of Chinese citizens to be properly protected.”
Rwanda and China enjoy good relations and last year marked the 50th anniversary of diplomatic ties.