China court compensates mother sent to labour camp

BEIJING (AFP) - A Chinese court awarded damages to the mother of a rape victim after she was sent to a labour camp for demanding her daughter's attackers be punished, a spokesman said Monday.

Ms Tang Hui, who became a figurehead for critics of the "re-education through labour" system after she was condemned to 18 months in a camp, won a total of 2,641 yuan (S$544) following an appeal, a court spokesman surnamed Zhang told AFP.

The court in Changsha, the capital of the central province of Hunan, awarded compensation on the grounds that local authorities had violated Ms Tang's personal freedom and caused her "psychological damage," Mr Zhang said.

But it rejected Ms Tang's demand that the police who sentenced her write a formal apology, because the "relevant people had apologised in court", he added.

The police chief of Yongzhou, who headed the committee that sentenced Ms Tang, said during the hearing that he had "not acted with enough humanity or care", Ms Tang told AFP earlier this month.

She was released last August after just over a week in a labour camp following a public outcry over her case, which was given unusual prominence in state-run media and prompted speculation that the system would be abolished.

The compensation award comes as a surprise after Ms Tang lost her initial case. She herself had estimated the chance of success in her appeal as a "remote possibility".

Ms Tang's daughter, 11 at the time, was kidnapped, raped and forced into prostitution in 2006, prompting Ms Tang to seek to bring to justice the abductors and the police she says protected them.

Seven men were finally convicted in June last year, with two condemned to death, four given life sentences and one jailed for 15 years, but Ms Tang continued to agitate for the policemen to face trial, and soon afterwards she was sentenced for "seriously disturbing social order and exerting a negative impact on society".

China's re-education through labour system gives police the right to hand out sentences of up to four years without a judicial trial.

Premier Li Keqiang said in March that the system would be "reformed", without giving further details.

US-based advocacy group the Dui Hua Foundation said on its website last month that some re-education through labour facilities had been "quietly taking formal steps to transition into compulsory drug treatment centres", citing local media reports.

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