Shanghai Labor Camp Mother in Court with Bruises

Mao Hengfeng petitioning with her three daughters before her sentence. Photo: He Zhendong/

HONG KONG—A Shanghai woman serving a one-year sentence in a labor camp for her battles against China's draconian one-child policy has appeared in court with bruises on her body, her relatives told RFA's Mandarin service.

Mao Hengfeng lost an appeal in a Shanghai court claiming welfare payments from the government on Nov.19. While some of her family and supporters were denied permission to enter the courtroom, Mao's husband Wu Xuewei said he saw marks on her body that led him to believe she was still being tortured inside the labor camp.

I noticed that there were blood-blisters and huge swellings around her wrists and ankles.

"I noticed that there were blood-blisters and huge swellings around her wrists and ankles," Wu told RFA's Mandarin service. "I think it is probably a repeat of the August situation all over again."

Victim of torture

In August, Mao had been suspended by leather belts for three days and denied food until she "admitted her mistakes," Wu said. "The belts were pulling her in all directions...They said to her, 'Are you still going to cry out? Are you going to admit your errors?'"

During her brief appearance in court, Mao shouted from the dock: "Yangpu Court, Daqiao police station, labor camp —you are all fascists and sadists!"

Mao had appealed a government decision to terminate her welfare payments after her labor camp sentence, which in China can be imposed administratively for up to three years without trial.

Mao's run-in with the authorities began when she became pregnant with a second and unauthorized child when she was employed at a soap factory in Shanghai in 1988. She was shut up in a psychiatric hospital when she resisted a forced abortion and later dismissed from her job—a move the city's labor arbitration committee ruled was illegal.

The factory appealed to the Yangpu district court, beginning several long years for Mao of petitioning and pursuing complaints through official channels. Mao was sentenced to one year "re-education through labor" in April 2004 after the authorities were angered by her persistence.

Millions seek redress

China has announced it will overhaul its official complaints system to treat the millions of petitioners who besiege government offices annually with allegations of corruption, illegal evictions, and abuse of official power, including beatings and deaths in custody.

More than 80 percent of the complaints received were reasonable and well-founded...Local governments had failed to help them.

The growing number of petitioners at the gates of government in recent years is a reminder of simmering unrest that the Communist Party fears could threaten its grip on power.

"The central government is exploring a new comprehensive system to reduce grassroots complaints... aiming to alleviate the increasing number of petitioners besieging the gates of central authorities," state media reported.

"More than 80 percent of the complaints and pleas were reasonable and well-founded, while at least 80 percent of the petitioners had chosen to come to Beijing because local governments had failed to help them," Zhou Zhanshun, director of the State Complaints Bureau, told Xinhua news agency.


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