Rape Victim’s Mother Free After Online Protest

Tang Hui, mother of an 11-year-old who was kidnapped and forced into prostitution in 2006, petitioned and publicly expressed her disapproval of how the courts dealt with her daughter’s tormenters. AP reports:

Ms. 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, Ms. 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 Ms. Tang continued to fight for death penalties for all the men.

Last week, the distressed mother was sentenced, without trial, to 18-months in a labor camp for “disturbing social order and exerting a negative impact on society”. This led to public outrage, expressed in a variety of public venues: from the blogosphere – where an overwhelming majority of surveyed netizens demanded the abolishment of re-education through labor, to official media – in reference to the local authorities that sentenced Tang, the Global Times demanded that officials “bear in mind that they are public servants, and not above the people”.

Yesterday, Tang was released from the labor camp in Hunan province. From The Wall Street Journal’s China Realtime Report:

Tang Hui is free.

The mother sentenced to a labor camp for pushing hard for tougher punishment of the men who allegedly raped her daughter was released on Friday, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported. News of Ms. Tang’s release followed shortly after an outpouring of support for her on Chinese microblogging sites, offering yet another illustration of the growing power of social media in China.

[...]“Tang Hui, this is China – a China with hope,” Deng Fei, a journalist with Phoenix Weekly magazine who’s been following Ms. Tang’s case, wrote on Sina Corp.’s Weibo microblogging service.

“This really would have been unimaginable without the Internet,” wrote Sun Yueli, a lawyer. “I just hope the next step in defending her rights goes as smoothly.”

An AP report further notes that the intensity of public pressure likely led to this quick release:

Chinese authorities on Friday released a woman sent to a labor 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.

Without drawing attention to public reaction, a Xinhua report claims that the reason for her release had to do with her young daughter’s need for care:

Tang filed an appeal on Aug. 7. After considering her appeal, the center decided to allow her to leave, since her daughter, now 17 years old, is still a minor and requires her mother’s care, provincial publicity officials said.

The public’s vocal outrage, and ultimately Tang’s release, could be viewed as another example of what Elizabeth C. Economy has called “China’s New Political Class: the People”. Also see prior CDT coverage of re-education through labor in China, and the case of Tang Hui.