China frees woman sent to labour camp for demanding justice in daughter's rape case

Associated Press

BEIJING, China - Chinese authorities on Friday released a woman sent to a labour camp for campaigning for harsher sentences for the seven men convicted of abducting, raping and prostituting her 11-year-old daughter, with officials apparently bowing to public pressure in the highly emotional case.

Tang Hui was ordered by police in Hunan province's Yongzhou city last Thursday to serve 18 months in a labour camp for "disturbing social order and exerting a negative impact on society" for protesting in front of government buildings. The crusading mother's case outraged the public and revived debate over China's controversial use of re-education through labour, a system that allows for detention without trial and that many feel should be abolished.

The official Xinhua News Agency said Tang was released after labour camp officials reviewed her appeal. Xinhua cited Hunan provincial publicity authorities as saying the camp decided to free her so she could take care of her daughter, who is now 17 years old. It said authorities were also investigating Tang's claim that police falsified evidence in her daughter's case.

Tang's punishment was met with a storm of criticism from intellectuals, bloggers and even state media.

The state-run Global Times newspaper noted in an editorial Tuesday that the public was livid over the case and went on to deliver an unusually frank critique of Tang's treatment and China's legal system.

"The Yongzhou police listed a series of Tang's 'illegal' activities disturbing social order, including appealing in front of the local courts, blocking the way of officials and making a scene at a judicial branch, and so on," it said. "But these activities didn't severely harm the public's interests."

"It's worth noting that China's petition and labour re-education system both have loopholes, and can easily lead to controversies," it said.

Tang's daughter was kidnapped in October, 2006 in Yongzhou city in Hunan, raped, beaten and forced to work as a prostitute in a spa until her rescue in December of the same year.

Unhappy with the first round of convictions meted out in 2008, Tang has been fighting for harsher penalties for the defendants in her daughter's case.

In June, the Hunan Provincial Higher People's Court handed down tougher sentences, including death sentences for two of the men, life in prison for four others and a 15 year jail sentence for one. But Tang continued to fight for death penalties for all the men.

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