A court in Hunan dismissed a compensation claim by a mother who was sent to a labour camp during her five-year campaign to demand tougher punishment for the men who raped her 11-year-old daughter.
Tang Hui, 40, broke down and wept as she walked out of the courtroom yesterday, her lawyer said. "It's an erroneous judgment," said Xu Liping, one of Tang's lawyers, who said they would appeal.
Her other lawyer, Si Weijiang, said: "The verdict tells people that it's not inappropriate to put her in a labour camp."
Some journalists complained that they were blocked from accessing the court one hour before the hearing started, although court authorities told them the previous day that they would be allowed in after registering, while state media were allowed into the court.
Only five of Tang's relatives were allowed into the courtroom. The hearing lasted about four hours in the morning and an hour in the afternoon before a ruling was given.
Tang brought an administrative lawsuit against the re-education through labour commission in Yongzhou , demanding 1,463.85 yuan (HK$1,800) for the loss of her freedom for nine days in the labour camp last August, and 1,000 yuan for psychological damage as well as a written apology, after the commission rejected her claim for compensation last November.
Tang testified for more than 10 minutes during the hearing, describing painful experiences in the labour camp system that once drove her to attempt suicide. Her 80-year-old mother also testified.
The head of the commission, who is also the city's police chief, was absent from the hearing because she was "dealing with a deadly traffic accident", Si said.
She rejected a settlement request from the court during the adjournment.
Tang was sentenced to 18 months in a re-education through labour centre last August for "seriously disturbing social order and exerting a negative impact on society", after she repeatedly petitioned local authorities for more severe punishment for the men who kidnapped, raped and forced her then-11-year-old daughter into prostitution in 2006.
She was released nine days later after the case spurred widespread public and media outrage.
The case led to intense criticism of the re-education through labour system, with complaints about abuses of power under a scheme that allows police to sentence people to up to four years of forced labour without trial.