Chinese authorities in Inner Mongolia have sentenced to labor camp a mother who tried to seek redress for the death of her husband during annual parliamentary sessions which closed this week, a rights group said on Friday.
Song Cuirong was handed a 19-month sentence of "re-education through labor" on March 6 by authorities in her hometown of Jalaid Banner after she traveled to Beijing to petition over the 2010 death of her husband, whom she says was beaten to death by assailants who paid off the local police to avoid capture.
The whereabouts of Song's young son are currently unknown, the Hong Kong-based Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) group said in an e-mailed statement on Friday.
Song is currently being held at the Tumuji labor camp for "undermining the harmony and stability of the parliamentary sessions," it said.
Song was detained last year on a previous trip to petition central government departments in Beijing and sent back to her hometown, where she was held in an unofficial detention center commonly known as a "black jail."
She returned to Beijing ahead of the National People's Congress (NPC) meetings in early March, before being picked up once again by officials from Jalaid Banner, CHRD said.
Authorities across China tightened their surveillance of rights activists and dissidents ahead of the annual parliamentary sessions, holding many under house arrest or forcing them to take a "vacation" under police escort for the 10-day duration of the meetings.
The clampdown also coincided with the first anniversary of online calls for a "jasmine" revolution, inspired by a series of uprisings in the Middle East.
News of petitioners' treatment at the hands of the authorities has continued to emerge since the NPC closed on Wednesday.
Henan-based activist Cheng Jiangping, who was sent to a labor camp on her wedding day over a nationalistic retweet the authorities didn't like, said she was intercepted by state security police after she left her hometown to travel to Shanghai during the parliamentary sessions.
"After I got to Shanghai, I discovered that security was even tighter there than in Henan," Cheng said after returning home under official escort on Friday. "It is partly because of [the NPC] I think. No sooner had I checked into a guesthouse than they knew about it."
"The state security police told me that ... if I had tried to visit [activist] Feng Zhenghu's home, they would have placed me under criminal detention," Cheng said.
Heilongjiang petitioner-activist Shan Yajuan confirmed reports that she was rushed to the hospital on Wednesday after going on a hunger strike during her detention in a "black jail" in the northeastern city of Jixi on March 10.
Shan's protest came after she was seized and beaten by Jixi representative officials in Beijing while trying to petition at the Supreme People's Court. She has been a vocal campaigner against China's system of black jails.
"The people who were guarding me were hired thugs," Shan said in an interview on Thursday. "They have no power to enforce the law, and all they do is violate people's rights."
"Therefore, I used some extreme tactics to deal with them, because there was nothing else I could do," she said.
According to CHRD, Hebei-based petitioners Wu Lanying, Zhang Niannian, and Bao Meichen were believed to be still held in black jails on Friday after being around the beginning of the NPC sessions.
In Guangdong, petitioner Yuan Kangcheng has been held in a police station in his hometown since March 7 after he was taken into custody in Beijing at the start of the parliamentary sessions. He had attempted to seek compensation for his sons, who were disabled by a car accident.
And Jiangsu petitioner Lu Fengjuan was held in the Jiujingzhuang detention center and threatened with 18 months in labor camp after she went to Beijing to appeal a previous labor camp sentence handed to her.
Authorities in Hubei are still believed be holding petitioner Yang Zelian after he was detained in Beijing on March 13 and sent to Jiujingzhuang before being transferred by Xiangfan city officials to a second black jail near the capital, CHRD said.
Reported by Wen Yuqing for RFA's Cantonese service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.