Almost half a year after suing local authorities for sending her to a labor camp to keep her from petitioning for justice, Tang Hui, also known as the "petitioning mother," finally won her appeal on July 15 in a case against the Yongzhou labor camp authorities in Hunan province, south-central China.
According to China's state-run media, the Hunan Provincial People's High Court in Changsha, the capital of Hunan province, has ordered the Yongzhou labor camp authorities to pay Tang -- who had petitioned for justice for her 11-year-old daughter after the girl was raped by seven men -- 2,941 RMB (about US $478) for "infringing upon [Tang's] personal freedoms" and "causing mental damage" during her nine-day detention in the labor camp.
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Earlier this year, a lower court dismissed Tang's request for compensation because it claimed she had been upsetting social stability through her petitioning.
Although the success of Tang's appeal should not have been a surprise given existing law, as one of Tang's lawyer's, Pu Zhiqiang, pointed out, it still came as a surprise to many who were following the case. Even in the eyes of a vice-chief of a local court in Hubei province, who chose to remain anonymous, Tang's chances of winning her case were slim based on public documents provided by the Yongzhou labor camp authorities. "The result of this case is due in large part to the fact that the re-education through labor system is about to be abolished, and the high court has also taken Tang's sufferings into consideration," the vice-chief noted.
The government is willing to spend 10,000 RMB on 'stability maintenance,' but not to offer an apology to a suffering mother. The 2,000 RMB was more like charity than compensation
Perhaps that is why the ruling was widely welcomed by Chinese domestic media, who commented that it meant much to both Tang herself and to everyone affected by the re-education through labor, or laojiao, system. The People's Daily, the mouthpiece of China's Communist Party, wrote on its verified Sina Weibo account, "Though Tang's demand for a written apology was not upheld, and the compensation was just symbolic, the final verdict at least offered [positive] feedback [to Tang Hui]."
However, reactions were more lukewarm among China's Internet users, as microblogger @平菇爱豆腐 said, "I just feel sad. To me, the ruling is just the way things should be, but now it is treated like a huge success. What a 'harmonious' society!"
In fact, instead of paying tribute to the Hunan High Court's decision, most Chinese Internet users have expressed disappointment that the court denied Tang's demand for a written apology. User @朱中华律师-国际工程律师 wrote, "Apologizing in court instead of publicly is inappropriate. It's not like you're doing something wrong, why would you need to cover it up? [But] in order to counteract the effect on the victim and to show sincerity, [relevant authorities] should make a public apology via the media."