“Petitioning Mother” Tang Hui Takes Campaign to Beijing

Following a court judgment on Monday awarding damages for her wrongful incarceration in a re-education through labor camp, “petitioning mother” Tang Hui has traveled to Beijing to pursue compensation for her daughter. The girl was kidnapped and forced into a brothel in 2006 at the age of 11. After police inaction forced her to mount a rescue herself, Tang petitioned for the culprits to be executed, only to be sentenced without trial to 18 months in the camp for causing a disturbance. The attempt to silence her backfired, however. A public outcry forced her release after nine days, and Tang launched a counterattack through the courts. From Malcolm Moore at The Daily Telegraph:

Now Mrs Tang hopes she can translate the momentum behind her into compensation for her daughter, who was infected with herpes in the brothel. “I want my daughter to be better but all the doctors we have seen said the disease is basically incurable. It flares up every few months and affects the mood in our house and her schoolwork,” said Mrs Tang.

Her lawyer, Pu Zhiqiang, is hopeful. After her court victory, he flew her to Beijing to put more pressure on the government.

“Beijing is the political and media capital of China, so I thought if she came up here quickly I could help her to solve her situation.

“There will not be any further court action, but we must pay attention to the compensation for her daughter’s case,” he said, adding that he now hopes to put her on television facing the officials who imprisoned her. [Source]

Tang told South China Morning Post’s Wu Nan that she plans to take her daughter to the U.S. for treatment. She is still waiting, however, to see the executions of two of the men convicted for her daughter’s ordeal:

“My biggest wish is to go somewhere with my family and start a new life,” she said. “But I have to wait for the criminals to be executed or they might harm other innocent people.”

In June last year, two of the girl’s kidnappers were sentenced to death, four accomplices received life sentences and one was jailed for 15 years. Tang said she will not give up “the right to protest” until the execution takes place. “I’m hoping it is this year. I’ve been waiting for too long.” [Source]

Observers have been divided over the broader significance of Monday’s verdict. At The New York Times, Andrew Jacobs reports that, while re-education through labor might be on the way out, that may not mark the end of cases like Tang’s:

In the months since the Chinese government issued a cryptic statement through the state news media, saying it would “advance reforms” of re-education through labor, legal experts have seen increasing signs that the system is on the way out. Several provinces have stopped issuing new sentences, and the media have been given relatively wide latitude to discuss the issue. In recent weeks, one of the country’s most notorious camps, Masanjia, in China’s northeast Liaoning Province, has been steadily releasing its remaining inmates, according to several former prisoners.

But some legal advocates are unsure whether the government will abolish the system or simply create a more publicly palatable creature that accomplishes the same goal. They note that the police are already funneling prostitutes and drug addicts to compulsory “rehabilitation centers” that provide little opportunity for appeal. Given the government’s determination to keep its plans under wraps, many experts have been left to speculate.

John Kamm, whose organization, Dui Hua Foundation, advocates for a criminal justice overhaul in China, said the decision by the Hunan court to recognize the injustice suffered by Ms. Tang was largely a concession to popular anger. “It’s public relations,” he said. [Source]

See also, via CDT, law professor Wang Lin’s warning that abolition of re-education through labor would not solve the underlying institutional dysfunction.