Tang Hui regularly staged protests in front of government buildings in China, demanding that seven men who abducted and raped her 11-year-old daughter should get harsher sentences. She was swiftly arrested and ordered by police in the Yongzhou city last week to serve 18 months in a labor camp, the New York Times reports.
She was arrested on charges of “disturbing social order and exerting a negative impact on society,” reports the Guardian. This form of labor camp punishment is often known as a system of re-education that is meant to remind citizens of their allegiance to the central government and the decisions it makes.
The reason behind her protest (the sexual assault of her young daughter and the lenient sentences dealt to the men) and her eventual imprisonment did not impress human rights activists around the world. Even some members of state media were enraged at this woman’s treatment. Public pressure mounted on the officials until they were forced to release Tang Hui on Friday, after “reviewing” her appeal.
Tang Hui and her daughter’s story began back in 2006, when her daughter was abducted, raped and forced to work as a prostitute by a group of men. She was rescued a few months later and the men were convicted in 2008. It took Tang another four years of protests and appeals to get the court to toughen the sentences. The Guardian notes that two men have been given death sentences and four others will serve life sentences. The final man will serve a 15 year jail sentence.
The state-run Global Times noted that officials had very little reason to arrest Tang Hui after she protested and filed appeals because “these activities didn’t severely harm the public’s interest.”
While Ms. Tang’s story of heroic motherly love and determination would seem to need no further explanation or understanding than that she wanted justice for her abused daughter, officials apparently felt differently. It took a massive media uprising for officials to release her from the camp, stating that she needed to be released to take care of her daughter, who is now 17.
Deng Fei, a Chinese lawyer, wrote about Tang Hui’s release and the state of the justice system and social media in China. “This really would have been unimaginable without the Internet. I just hope the next step in defending her rights go smoothly.”
Social media has played a pivotal role in forcing officials to change their stance on essential human and civil rights issues throughout China. In June, one woman’s forced abortion of her 7-month-old fetus caused a media sensation and helped to uncover the fact that many more women were probably undergoing the same treatment at the hands of government officials.
Photo Credit: Stougard