Recently, in a prison in Hebei Province, “relatives’ online video visits are charged 50 yuan each time for 20 minutes”, which has aroused the attention and doubts of netizens. The Paper learned that the relevant video meeting platform is a WeChat applet called “Family Meeting”, and the main company is Hebei Lichi Information Technology Co., Ltd. (hereinafter referred to as “Lichi Information”).
The registration certificate of the “Family Meeting” system issued by Lichi Information on the official website.
A staff member of Baoding Prison previously responded to the media that the remote video meeting is a convenient service provided by a third-party company, and the fee is also charged by the third-party company. The Paper previously reported that prisons in other provinces and cities also have similar video meeting services. The prisons do not charge, but third-party service companies have different charging standards, and some are cheaper than “family meetings”.
In addition, the “Family Meeting” applet claims that you can make appointments for video meetings in more than a dozen prisons in Hebei, which has also attracted attention. Some lawyers said that the use of the “Family Meeting” prison remote video meeting platform developed by Lichi Information in the prison system of Hebei Province belongs to the scope of government procurement and should be decided through bidding and other methods.
On August 10, The Paper searched on the public service platform for bidding in China and found that there were no bidding records for related projects in prisons in Hebei that many “family meetings” claimed could be reserved. We can only find an announcement that Lichi Information won the bid for the procurement project of Hebei Women’s Prison Meeting Management Platform in April this year.
In response to the above questions, The Paper contacted several prisons in Hebei Province that used “family meetings” on August 10, but did not receive an effective response. The staff of the Hebei Provincial Prison Administration said that regarding the relevant disputes, “it has been reported to the ‘relevant department’ and is under discussion.”
Focus on “Lichi Information” in the field of prisons
According to the National Enterprise Information Publicity System, Lichi Information was established in September 2016. Its main business includes information technology, software research and development, technical consultation, technology transfer, and information system integration services. The company’s initial registered capital is 3 million yuan, which will be increased to 11 million yuan in June 2021.
On August 9, The Paper saw on the official website of Lichi Information that the company claimed to be a new technology company focusing on the research, development, production and sales of comprehensive prison systems.
The “family meeting system” that has received attention this time was designed and developed by Lichi Information in 2020. The computer software copyright registration certificate displayed on the website shows that the development completion date of “Family Meeting System 1.0” is November 10, 2020, the first publication date is December 17, 2020, and the registration was approved on February 7, 2021.
Lichi Information stated in the accompanying text on the certificate that its self-developed prison remote video meeting platform was deployed in the prison system of Hebei Province in November 2020 and put into operation. As of the end of July 2021, a total of 60,000 criminal interviews have been completed. “Acclaimed by offenders and families alike.”
Lichi Information mentioned in the “Prison Remote Video Meeting System Proposal” published on the official website that, compared with WeChat, QQ and other tools, “Family Meeting” can record and record the whole process, and is more secure in terms of security, such as Relatives are required to enter real personal information when registering, and before making a call, police officers use the original information to check with relatives in the video; the screens seen by prisoners are images with the background removed, etc.
According to the proposal, this system can solve the problem of family visit difficulties during the epidemic. The company has communicated and reported with many prisons and management departments. While providing the convenience of the system, it also solves the uncontrollable safety hazards during the call process, and has carried out practical applications in many prisons. The call process is safe and reliable. It can be realized that relatives can “meet with inmates through video without leaving home”.
On August 10, the official website of Lichi Information could not be opened normally.
On August 10, The Paper noticed that the company’s official website could no longer be opened normally.
Multiple bids for prison projects
As mentioned above in the self-introduction of Lichi Information on the official website, The Paper searched through the Tianyancha App and found that in the whole year of 2021, Lichi Information has been approved to register a number of cases involving prison management, including the above-mentioned “Family Meeting 1.0”. system. Such as prison fixed assets management system, roll call management system, inmate meeting management system, prison officer training file management system, etc., a total of 10 items.
The Tianyancha app shows that Lichi Information has a number of software copyrights related to the field of prison management.
According to the Tianyancha App, Lichi Information has won multiple bids for prison management projects. The Announcement on the Procurement of Terminal Equipment for the Police Dispatch Sub-platform of Hebei Women’s Prison (Bidding No.: HBHJ2207-01-119) shows that in August 2022, Lichi Information won the bid for the terminal equipment procurement project of the police dispatch sub-platform of Hebei Women’s Prison. The winning bid price is more than 330,000 yuan. The bidding agency is Hebei Hengji Construction Tendering Co., Ltd., and the bidding supervision unit is blank.
In September 2022, Lichi Information won the bid for the terminal equipment procurement project of the police dispatching sub-platform of Hebei Shenzhou Prison. The winning bid price was more than 240,000 yuan. is blank. One month later, Lichi Information won the bid for the terminal equipment procurement project of the police dispatching sub-platform of Shenzhou Prison again (second time). The agency was the same as the first time, but this time the bidding announcement stated that the supervision department was Shenzhou Prison .
In addition, in April 2023, Lichi Information won the bid for the meeting management platform project of Hebei Women’s Prison. The winning bid amount is more than 320,000 yuan, and the delivery period is 20 calendar days. The bidding agency is Hebei Hengji Construction Tendering Co., Ltd., and the supervision department is blank.
Zhao Liangshan, a senior partner of Shaanxi Hengda Law Firm and a well-known public interest lawyer, believes that the tenderer is the client and the tendering agency is the trustee. The legal significance of this principal-agent relationship is that the agency behavior of the bidding agency is limited to the agency authority agreed by both parties, and the tenderer will therefore bear civil liability for the agency behavior of the bidding agency and its legal consequences. The tenderee can act as a supervisory department to supervise, but in the bid winning announcement, the supervisory department is blank, which is not in compliance.
Multiple Prison Bidding Records Not Seen
Liu Kai, a lawyer from Beijing Zhongwen (Changsha) Law Firm, said in an interview with the media that meeting with relatives can enhance emotional exchanges and help criminals reform and integrate into society. However, prisons are generally built in remote areas, and face-to-face meetings do take a certain amount of time and travel costs. Therefore, the use of remote video meetings in the prison system has certain practical significance and is a manifestation of advancing with the times, which is worthy of recognition.
However, the prison system in Hebei Province adopts the “family meeting” prison remote video meeting platform developed by Lichi Information, which should belong to the category of government procurement.
On August 10, The Paper searched the bidding situation of Luquan, Longyao, and Jizhong prisons in Hebei Province on the China Bidding Public Service Platform and the Chinese Government Purchase Service Information Platform. Video interview related tender records. And these prisons all use “family meeting”.
Later, The Paper successively called several prisons to inquire about the use of “family visits” by the prisons. The staff of the Luquan Prison Office told The Paper that they were not aware of the relevant situation and needed to contact the Prison Administration Division. Later, the staff of the prison administration department said that after confirming with the office, they could not accept interviews. The staff of the Jizhong Prison Office also said that they did not know about it and could consult the staff in the interview room. Later, The Paper called the interview room many times, but no one answered.
The staff of the Longyao Prison Office also stated that they were not aware of the relevant situation. The Paper asked if they could ask the leaders and then give feedback. They said, “I can report it upwards, but I cannot guarantee a reply.” No response was received.
In addition, the staff of the Hebei Provincial Prison Administration Bureau told The Paper on August 10 that they have made a record of the public’s controversy over the “family meeting” and reported it to the relevant department, which is now being discussed. As for which department is the relevant department, the other party said, “It is inconvenient to tell you this.” “There will be a result at that time,” the staff member said.
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