China court rejects damages plea from man jailed for Bo joke

Thu Jan 31, 2013 2:45am EST
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By Michael Martina

BEIJING (Reuters) - A Chinese man sent to a labor camp for a joke about Bo Xilai said he was awarded minimal compensation by a court on Thursday, in what could be a blow to others jailed by the disgraced leader's administration and hoping for substantial damages.

Fang Hong, 46, was sentenced to a year of re-education in 2011 after posting a poem online that mocked Bo and his then police chief Wang Lijun for miscarriages of justice during an anti-crime campaign in the southwestern city of Chongqing, where Bo was Communist Party chief.

But Fang said the court in Chongqing's Dianjiang county rejected his demand for $59,000 in psychological damages for his year in the labor camp. Instead it gave him just $9,200, in the first known case of compensation linked to Bo-era abuses.

It also rejected Fang's plea for a public apology. The blogger and former forestry official was awarded just $26 for each of 351 days he spent in the camp -- a sentence that was overturned last year months after Bo fell.

The court could not be reached immediately for comment.

"This is definitely unfair. The court didn't recognize the mental harm caused. So, this ruling is not just," Fang told Reuters by telephone after the ruling was announced.

Fang said he would ask his lawyers about appealing against the ruling, which is based on national compensation law.

Experts had expected Fang's request for psychological damages to be rejected in an effort to discourage a flood of other claims linked to Bo's hardline policies, which critics argued were also used to stifle dissent.   Continued...

Bo Xilai, then Governor of Liaoning Province, gestures as he delivers a speech at the China Entrepreneur Annual Meeting 2003 in Beijing in this December 7, 2003 file photo. REUTERS/Jason Lee/Files