The mother of a young girl who was raped and forced into prostitution by at least seven people, including two police officers, won her appeal yesterday in a case against labour camp authorities in Hunan province.
Tang Hui was sentenced to 18 months of re-education through labour at a camp in Yongzhou last year. She was released after just over a week when her case sparked public outcry and yesterday received 2,941 yuan (HK$3,688) in compensation.
Her daughter was just 11 when she was taken, and Tang saved her three months later from an underground brothel. She was sentenced to the labour camp for her outspokenness against those involved in the abduction, rape and detention.
The Hunan Provincial People's High Court said the payout included 1,941 yuan for the loss of Tang's freedom for nine days. The remaining 1,000 yuan was for psychological damage. But the court rejected Tang's demand for a written apology as the local police chief who sentenced her had made a public oral apology.
"It's all over," Tang told the South China Morning Post yesterday, calling the ruling a "fairly satisfying result". "I finally won the case after years of petitioning; it was too exhausting."
Asked if she still wanted a written apology, Tang said: "I just want to return to life as an ordinary person." She also said the verdict "proves my innocence to the public".
A lower court in April dismissed Tang's compensation claim against those who sentenced her to the camp because they claimed she was upsetting social stability. The province's high court agreed to review the case.
Tang's detention became an example of how local governments use labour camps to stifle petitioners. It also set off intense debate about the legitimacy of the re-education through labour camp system. Months after Tang's release, Beijing said it would reform the system.
But prominent defence lawyer Si Weijiang said Tang's victory should not be seen as a sign of an improving legal system.
"Tang Hui has finally won her appeal, but I don't think it shows the government is developing China into a country governed by rule of law," Si said. "The ruling might have been made based on instructions from top leaders rather than the judges, as the case has been in the limelight."
Beijing lawyer Wang Peng agreed and said it was only a single case.
"The tragedy of Tang could happen to anyone on the mainland if the legal system isn't reformed," he said. "But so far I don't see that anything has particularly changed; the authorities even refused to make a written apology."
Two of the girl's abductors were executed, four received life sentences, and one was jailed for 15 years. Tang claims others were involved, but they have not been brought to justice.