People's Daily commentary remarks on re-education through labour

People's Daily commentary sides with woman sentenced to re-education through labour; may reflect resolve to reform controversial system

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 16 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 16 April, 2013, 4:53am

The Communist Party's official mouthpiece ran a commentary yesterday sympathetic to the case of a mother sent to re-education through labour after she protested the punishment of the men who raped and enslaved her 11-year-old daughter.

The piece in People's Daily called for enhancing public faith in the rule of law. Its writer, Wang Shichuan, appealed for the court to issue a fair ruling in the case of Tang Hui , the 40-year-old woman who on Friday lost an administrative lawsuit against the re-education-through-labour (RTL) commission in Yongzhou , Hunan .

"Every judgment is a cornerstone for public faith in the rule of law," Wang wrote, "and every error [in judgment] may lead to the collapse of that faith."

Tang was sentenced in August to 18 months of RTL for "seriously disturbing social order and exerting a negative impact on society" after petitioning for harsher punishment of the seven men who in October 2006 forced into prostitution and sexually violated her daughter.

She was released nine days later on "humanitarian grounds" after reports triggered national outrage, including against the RTL system, in use since the 1950s.

Under the system, police are allowed to sentence people for up to four years of forced labour without judicial oversight. The system is often criticised.

In her lawsuit, Tang sought 1,463.85 yuan (HK$1,816) for her nine days of lost freedom, 1,000 yuan for psychological damage and a written apology.

Tang had sought the death penalty for all seven suspects. At sentencing in June last year, two received death, four life imprisonment and one 15 years in jail.

"The public attention Tang's case garnered exhibited sympathy and concern for a mother but also expressed an urgent call for the reform of the re-education-through-labour system," the commentary said.

The piece quoted Premier Li Keqiang , who said at his first press conference as premier in March that plans to reform the contentious system would be unveiled by the end of this year. He did not give a timeframe for implementation, however.