Like many petitioners who dare to journey to Beijing to seek redress for injustices, Chen Qingxia soon found herself sent to toil in a dingy labour camp.
Chen's case took a turn for the unusual when she was released 18 months later. Rather than be allowed to return to her home in Heilongjiang province, Chen was immediately locked up again. This time they sent her to an abandoned morgue.
That's where she's been ever since, living in a house for the dead. Disease ridden and wheelchair bound, Chen has been kept alone in the dilapidated one-story building in Yichun city, according to a story  published by China National Radio (CNR) on Thursday.
She is under the watchful eye of 24-hour security and is allowed only minimal contact with family members.
Chen had originally gone to Beijing in 2007 to protest the alleged police mistreatment and abuse of her mentally-ill husband. The man, suffering from a bout of post traumatic stress disorder, was arrested for vandalism and jailed in 2003. He is now in a mental asylum.
Due to her failing health and disability - she says she lost the use of her legs after a police beating - she counts on daily deliveries of food and medicine from her sister. Her only other direct relative, her son, disappeared mysteriously during her trip to Beijing five years ago. He was 12 at the time.
“I want to go home, I really want to go home ... but if I leave this place the police will come. I cannot leave,” Chen told CNR’s reporter, who said he had to pose as a relative to get by security.
The reporter said he has been harassed by police since his report ran. On his Sina Weibo account, the reporter said  local police have visited his home, tampered with his mobile phone and diverted his SIM card to a different phone number.
“I’ve been told this is what happens when your phone is being monitored. I know there is more to this. I will regularly update my status on Weibo and report on my safety.
“If there are no updates within 12 hours, please call the police.”
Earlier this week, state media confirmed a plan to end the mainland's controversial “re-education through labour” system by the end of the year. New Communist Party chief Xi Jinping has called the practice a “pressing problem” that is “out of touch with the people”.