BEIJING: A man wrongfully imprisoned for 23 years in China was declared innocent on Monday due to insufficient evidence and was released from a prison in Hainan province.

Chen Man, 53, from Sichuan province, who was given a two-year suspended death sentence in 1994 for homicide and arson, was freed in Haikou, the provincial capital.

He had been held in prison before being sentenced, People’s Daily reported on Tuesday.

Chen said after being released that he was happy and could not wait to return home to celebrate Spring Festival with his parents, who are in their 80s.

His lawyer, Wang Wanqiong, who took up the case in 2013, said he was excited about Chen's acquittal, adding that it marks progress with the rule of law in China.

"The correction of my client's verdict shows that judicial bodies in our country have changed their ideas about dealing with cases where there is doubt," Wang said.

"They are upholding the principle that, under the Criminal Procedure Law, there should be no punishment in such cases."

Officials at Hainan High People's Court bowed and apologized to Chen on Monday and told him that he could apply for State compensation, Wang said.

Also on Monday, 27 officials, including police officers, prosecutors and judges, in the Inner Mongolia autonomous region were penalized over the wrongful conviction and execution of a man for rape and murder when he was 18 in 1996.

Feng Zhiming, who was in charge of the case against Hugjiltu at the time, is suspected of job-related crimes and has been placed under further investigation. The other 26 officials received punishments such as admonishments and demerits on their records, according to a statement.