Activist Sent Back to Labor Camp

The Chinese activist gets a severe punishment after complaining about beatings he received at a labor camp.

china-plant-hunan-305.gif A plant which was shut down in Hunan province after suspected lead poisoning, Aug. 18, 2009.

Authorities in the central Chinese province of Hunan have handed a second term of two years in labor camp to an activist who repeatedly complained about violence during his first sentence there.

Peng Xinzhong was detained on Thursday after he showed up at the Chenzhou Re-education Through Labor Center demanding compensation for injuries he says were sustained during two beatings by police at the camp, his close friend said on Monday.

"Peng Xinzhong called me at 9.00 a.m. and said that he had received a letter about re-education through labor," He Chaohui said in an interview on Monday.

"I don't know what the crime is supposed to be, but I'm guessing it'll be 'obstructing official duty,' or even vaguer, something like 'stirring up trouble.'"

"The local government told him they would address the issue [of compensation], but they never did," He said. "Now he's being sentenced to two years' re-education through labor. Last time it was one year."

Li Jinglin, a lawyer appointed by Peng's family, said he planned to apply for a hearing in the next 48 hours.

"They issued the notice on the 24th, so we'll have to do it by today or tomorrow," Li said.

"The charges are disrupting the order of a workplace, but I haven't seen the contents of the letter."

Peng said three of his bones were broken during the beatings, which he says took place on Aug. 1 and Oct. 6, 2011, while he was serving his first term at the Chenzhou Re-education Through Labor Center.


His initial sentence came after he publicly accused Guiyang county ruling Chinese Communist Party secretary Li Xiangyang and county police chief Hu Yonghua of corruption linked to the illegal operation of a lead and zinc smelting plant in the county.

He said that nearly 100 local Party and government officials had shares in the plant.

According to He, Peng's treatment during his second term is likely to be far worse.

"It'll probably be even crueler, if he's sent right back to the same labor camp [where he was beaten]," he said.

Sichuan-based rights activist Huang Qi said Peng's complaint should have been taken seriously by the authorities.

"Not only did they not use this as an opportunity to mend their ways, they sent him to labor camp twice," Huang said.

"We see this sort of thing all over China, and I am strongly opposed to the actions of the Hunan authorities."

No basis

Peng's renewed sentence comes amid growing calls from lawyers, activists, and academics for an end to "Re-education through labor" (RTL) sentences, which are administrative, are controlled by the police, and can be handed down for up to a maximum of three years without the need for a trial.

Lawyers argue that the system has no basis in China's current law, is a holdover from the political turmoil and kangaroo courts of the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), and is a long-running violation of the rights of citizens.

In September, a group of 10 Chinese lawyers sent an open letter to China’s ministries of justice and public security, calling for “adjustments” to the RTL system, receiving wide coverage in China's tightly controlled official media.

The letter was prompted by the case of Tang Hui, a woman from the central province of Hunan who was sent to labor camp for challenging the prison sentences of men convicted of raping her daughter.

The authorities have also rolled out trial "reforms" of the RTL system in four Chinese cities, but rights groups say any changes are likely to be cosmetic.

Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

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