By Irving Feng
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia
CHONGQING, China – Fang Hong, a 46 year old blogger, has been denied compensation for psychological damages after serving twelve months in a forced labor, re-education camp in 2011.
Fang was sentenced to twelve months in the labor camp after posting a poem online which criticized and mocked former politician and Communist Party leader, Bo Xilai, and his former police chief, Wang Lijun. The poem highlighted the injustices that plagued Bo’s crackdown against crime in the southwestern Chinese city of Chongqing.
Bo garnered much praise with the ambitious social projects that he implemented in Chongqing, however, as Fang’s poem showed, not all of his policies were universally accepted. Bo’s anti-crime campaign drew criticism after public accusations of abuses of power and serious miscarriages of justice.
Fang was a victim of one of these miscarriages of justice when he was detained by police and sent away to a forced labor camp. Though the police did not have enough evidence to convict, China’s re-education through labor system awards the police wide discretion to hand down sentences of up to four years without trial.
This system of police handing down sentences without trial was established in China in the 1950s to punish minor criminals; however, it has been utilized to suppress political dissidents. Fang Hong’s sentence was overturned after he served his twelve months in the labor camp and sought compensation for the wrongful conviction and time he spent at the forced labor camp.
Fang sought to recover 360,000 Yuan (roughly $59,000) and a public apology for the time he served. Reports say that the Chongqing Dianjiang court rejected Fang’s demand and only awarded him $9,200 for the twelve months he spent in the labor camp. The public apology was also denied.
After the ruling, Fang commented that the court’s decision was “definitely unfair,” and that the court did not fully recognize the psychological harm the twelve months caused him. Fang also said that he would be asking his lawyer, Mei Chunlai, to appeal the decision.
The Chongqing Dianjiang court that ruled on Fang’s case could not be reached for comment. Pundits believe that the Fang’s request for compensation, which is based on China’s national compensation laws, was denied to prevent a flood of new claims linked to Bo’s anti-crime campaign abuses. Many also believe that Bo’s anti-crime activities were used to silence dissidents.
Estimates project that nearly 700 people were convicted during Bo’s reign in Chongqing and around 70 of those convicted were ultimately executed. Bo’s political career unraveled last year when a scandal emerged involving his wife and the murder of a British businessman. He now faces his own legal troubles and is likely to be convicted in a trial of his own.
Fang Hong’s case for compensation against the Bo era abuses in Chongqing is the first of its kind. It will be seen as the initial test as to how the courts will handle the alleged miscarriages of justice that were rampant during Bo’s reign.
For further information, please see:
The Standard – No payout for blogger busted over Bo joke – 1 February 2013
Bangkok Post – China blogger sentenced for Bo joke denied payout – 31 January 2013
Reuters – China court rejects damages plea from man jailed for Bo joke – 31 January 2013
Sino Daily – China blogger sentenced for Bo joke denied payout – 31 January 2013