BEIJING (Reuters) - A Chinese court dismissed on Friday a compensation claim by a mother sent to a labor camp after she demanded justice for her daughter who had been raped, in a high-profile case that sparked debate about reform of the labor-camp system.
Authorities in the southern city of Yongzhou sentenced Tang Hui to 18 months in a labor camp last August for “disturbing social order” after she demanded that the men who had raped her then 11-year-old daughter be given the death penalty.
China’s “re-education through labor” system, in place since 1957, empowers police and other agencies to detain people for up to four years without a court process.
Despite long-standing international criticism of the camps, many Chinese are largely oblivious to them because many of those who are locked up are poor and on the fringes of society and their cases are not publicized.
Tang gained wide attention following reports in state media, with the case of a mother demanding justice for her daughter resonating with the public.
State media and microbloggers seized on her case to question the labor-camp system, saying it violated human rights and the rule of law. A group of lawyers wrote to the central government seeking the repeal of the system.
Tang spent a little over a week in the camp before being released following a public outcry.
But on Friday, a provincial court upheld a January decision by the Yongzhou Re-education Through Labor Committee to reject Tang’s request for compensation of about 2,000 yuan ($320), her lawyer, Si Weijiang, said.
“She’s now in extreme despair, she doesn’t believe in the law anymore,” Si told Reuters by telephone. “She stood crying outside the courthouse for a very long time.”
Si said the court overturned the decision to send Tang to the labor camp but maintained it was not illegal.
Court officials could not be reached for comment.
The outrage about Tang’s case has coincided with a government pledge to reform the labor-camp system by the end of the year.
In the camp of more than 100 women, Tang said she had to memorize two pages of phrases that included: “transform ourselves in a proper way” and “we’re not allowed to escape”.
She said she had not been ill-treated though guards watched her closely.
Editing by Ben Blanchard and Robert Birsel