The heavy price of justice for one Chinese mum
Tang Hui was jailed after protesting about her daughter's rape. She tells Malcolm Moore in Beijing she still fears for the future
A Chinese mother locked up in a labour camp for demanding justice over the rape, kidnap and prostitution of her 11-year-old daughter said yesterday her battle against the authorities was far from over.
Seven years after Tang Hui's ordeal began, she sat with her head in her hands in an office in Beijing, utterly broken by the Chinese system. On Monday, the frail 39-year-old mother won a legal victory in Changsha, the capital city of Hunan province, that would seem absurd in a country that was less Kafkaesque.
She was awarded £317 (€365) in compensation after being sent to a labour camp for protesting that some of the men who abused her daughter be more harshly punished.
Because of a wave of public support for Mrs Tang, the Communist Party was forced into a rare retreat. But the court still refused to grant her the written apology she had asked for.
"I am still worried about the future, about upcoming problems and about how to win compensation for my daughter. I still have nightmares and flashbacks," she said.
Her troubles began in October, 2006, when her daughter was snatched by seven men just before her 11th birthday. As the days lengthened into months, it became clear that the police had little interest. Eventually, after putting pictures online, she received a tip-off from an anonymous man who spotted her daughter in a local brothel.
"Two of my male relations posed as customers and visited the brothel but could not find her," she said. "My family wanted me to give up, but I could not.
"I climbed to the top of a building overlooking the brothel and kept watch, but did not see her. Then I posed as a rubbish collector, passing back and forth in front of the door and keeping a look out. Finally one day I saw the back of a girl who looked like her."
After six years, two of the men involved were executed, four received life sentences and one was jailed for 15 years. But for Mrs Tang, the verdict was too lenient. She knelt for hours outside the local government in Changsha and then took her complaint to Beijing.
Eventually, she became enough of a thorn in the side of local officials for them to take action. She was sentenced to 18 months in a labour camp for "upsetting social stability".
A huge public outcry got Mrs Tang released in a week. Immediately, she sued the government. Amazingly, she won. Now Mrs Tang hopes she can translate her momentum into compensation for her daughter, now back in school, who was infected with herpes in the brothel.
"I want my daughter to be better but all the doctors we have seen said the disease is basically incurable. It flares up every few months and affects the mood in our house and her schoolwork."