Tang Hui won a court appeal on Monday in the latest chapter of a saga that began in 2006, with the kidnapping, rape and beating of her then 11-year-old daughter. Two men were subsequently sentenced to death, four to life in prison, and another to 15 years. When Tang campaigned for all to be executed, however, she was sentenced without trial to 18 months in a labor camp, and served nine days before a public outcry led to her release. Monday’s verdict reverses an earlier decision denying her compensation for the ordeal, awarding 2,941 yuan ($480) for her incarceration and resulting psychological harm, but opinions differ on whether the judgment is cause for celebration. From Gillian Wong at the Associated Press:
The labor camp — or “re-education through labor” — system was established to punish early critics of the Communist Party but now is used by local officials to deal with people challenging their authority on issues including land rights and corruption. Cases like Tang’s last year have galvanized critics, many of them within the government, and public expectations for reform have grown.
[…] Tang’s other lawyer, Pu Zhiqiang, said the lawsuit’s significance was limited because it was focused on obtaining compensation rather than questioning the legality of the labor camp sentence she had been given.
“The court ruling is a result of a compromise between the various forces that are exerting influence over the case. Of course it’s not as though real justice or fairness has been achieved,” Pu said. [Source]
Josh Chin reported mixed views on the outcome at China Real Time Report, with some observers taking positions similar to Pu’s and others pronouncing the verdict “a victory for rule of law [and] for the rights of regular citizens!”
But in a country where face is often at least as important as money, many saw the absence of a written apology as a defeat for Ms. Tang, who had earlier rejected a mediated settlement because she wanted authorities to be held publicly accountable. According to Mr. Xu [Liping, Tang’s lawyer], the local government had offered her 100,000 yuan in “subsidies” to drop the lawsuit but she rejected the offer because it was contingent on confidentiality.
“She won compensation, but she didn’t get what she most deserved: an apology,” argued newspaper columnist and social commentator Yao Bo, who writes under the pen name Wuyue Sanren. “Officials are willing to pay but unwilling to apologize, because the money comes from taxpayers but the face belongs the officials.” [Source]
Tang herself told the South China Morning Post that even without the apology, she was “fairly satisfied” with a verdict which “proves my innocence to the public.” She now hopes to return to a normal life, she added.
See also law professor Wang Lin’s argument from April that even abolishing the reeducation through labor system would not address the fundamental dysfunction behind Tang’s case and others like it, via CDT.