China police chief 'apologises to rape victim's mother' in court

BEIJING (AFP) - A Chinese police chief who sent the mother of a rape and kidnap victim to hard labour apologised to her during a court hearing on Tuesday over compensation, media reports said.

Ms Tang Hui's sentencing to 18 months in a "re-education through labour" camp for demanding her daughter's attackers be punished sparked widespread public outrage in August last year, prompting her release just a week later and unleashing criticism of the system.

"The head of the re-education through labour committee appeared in court and apologised for not acting with enough humanity or care," the Beijing Times reported.

Mr Jiang Jianxiang also promised to "continue to coordinate with the local government to care for and look after Tang", it said.

On top of his police and sentencing posts, Mr Jiang is also deputy mayor of Ms Tang's home town of Yongzhou.

Earlier this year Ms Tang lost a lawsuit seeking compensation of 1,463.85 yuan (S$301.47) for the time she served, but she later filed an appeal.

It was heard on Tuesday at the Hunan provincial high court in central China, ending without a decision after nearly four hours.

"The hearing has closed," the court said on its official account on Sina Weibo, a Chinese version of Twitter, adding that it "will issue a decision at a future date".

More than 200 people, including 50 journalists, attended the session, the court said in a series of Weibo posts accompanied by photos in and around the courtroom.

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

She took dramatic steps such as kneeling outside the Hunan high court and travelling to Beijing to file petitions with higher authorities, an age-old practice in China that irritates local-level officials.

Seven men were finally convicted in June 2012, 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. Two months later she received her labour sentence after being accused of "seriously disturbing social order and exerting a negative impact on society".

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