China Bo Xilai critic seeks compensation for 460 days of hard labour

BEIJING (AFP) - A Chinese official is demanding compensation after serving 15 months' hard labour for criticising disgraced leader Bo Xilai, domestic media said on Friday, a day after the toppled politician was indicted.

Mr Ren Jianyu, a low-level official in the south-western megacity of Chongqing that Bo headed, had forwarded microblog posts criticising the politician's Maoist-style "sing red" campaigns.

Mr Ren was freed from a "re-education through labour" camp last November, weeks after Bo was formally expelled from his post to face justice for offences from bribery to abuse of power.

The Bo scandal was the biggest to rock Chinese politics in decades, exposing rifts at the highest levels of power ahead of a once-a-decade leadership transition last year.

Mr Ren is now seeking a total of 167,762 yuan (S$34,600) in compensation - half for the violation of his personal freedom and half for psychological harm, the Beijing Times said.

The former claim is based on a national standard of 182.35 yuan multiplied by 460 days served, said a copy of Mr Ren's request which he posted on the Chinese microblogging website Sina Weibo.

He also sought a written apology from the Chongqing re-education through labour committee that sentenced him.

The police-led panels are authorised to send petty offenders to up to four years' hard labour without going to trial.

The system has faced criticism for becoming a way to silence citizens complaining about government officials.

Earlier this month Tang Hui, the mother of a rape victim who was sent to a labour camp in Hunan province for demanding her daughter's attackers be punished, was awarded damages. Her case had provoked widespread outrage.

Authorities in Chongqing first sought to convict Mr Ren of subversion, citing microblog reposts calling for the end to China's one-party rule.

As evidence they cited a T-shirt of Mr Ren's bearing the phrase: "Give me liberty or give me death".

Other comments that Mr Ren shared online compared Bo's campaigns to the tumultuous 1966-76 Cultural Revolution led by late leader Mao Zedong.

Bo, a member of China's powerful 25-member Politburo, gained nationwide prominence as he promoted leftist and populist policies but also divided top leaders.

The scandal surrounding him exploded in Feb 2012, with his police chief fleeing to a US consulate and his wife later convicted of murdering a British associate.

Bo was detained in March 2012, formally ousted from office last November and indicted on Thursday for bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power.

The trial will be held in the eastern city of Jinan and is expected to begin next month.