Chinese women's rights activist sent to labor camp again

BEIJING Tue Nov 6, 2012 6:13am EST

Mao Hengfeng (C) holds signs bearing slogans as she protests with Jin Yuehua (L) and Shen Peilan in Beijing September 26, 2009. REUTERS/Handout/Amnesty International

Mao Hengfeng (C) holds signs bearing slogans as she protests with Jin Yuehua (L) and Shen Peilan in Beijing September 26, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Handout/Amnesty International

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BEIJING (Reuters) - A Chinese woman who has campaigned against the strict one-child policy has been sent to labor camp for one and a half years, the third time she has been detained for criticizing the government, her husband said on Tuesday.

Mao Hengfeng, who lives in Shanghai, was seized in Beijing by a team of security officials on September 20 when she was petitioning the authorities for the rights abuses she suffered during her previous labor camp sentences, her husband, Wu Xuewei, told Reuters.

Mao's sentence comes as authorities round up dissidents ahead of the ruling Communist Party's all-important congress, which starts on Thursday and will usher in a generational leadership change.

Wu said he received a letter from the authorities late on Monday informing him that Mao had been sentenced to a labor camp for "disturbing social order", which he said was unfounded.

"She is not guilty and she didn't break any laws," Wu said. "They are fabricating offences, making up evidence to lock up people who did not commit crimes in prisons and labor camps."

Wu said he has no idea about Mao's whereabouts. She was last known to be held at the Yangpu district police detention centre in Shanghai. Calls to the centre went unanswered.

China's stability-obsessed rulers are taking no chances to ensure an image of harmony as President Hu Jintao prepares to transfer power as party leader to anointed successor Vice President Xi Jinping.

Mao, who has three daughters, has been petitioning the government since she was dismissed in 1988 from her job at a soap factory after becoming pregnant a second time, in contravention of the one-child policy.

While calls to scrap the policy have grown louder amid an ageing population, China has been cautious about dropping a scheme implemented to spare the country the pressures of feeding and clothing millions of additional people.

One of China's most famous dissidents, the blind legal activist Chen Guangcheng, has focused on campaigning against forced abortions connected with the policy.

Mao, 50, was sentenced in February 2011 to a labor camp for conducting "illegal activities". In 2010, she was sentenced to one and a half years of "re-education through labor" on charges of "disturbing the public order" for a protest at the trial of jailed 2010 Nobel Laureate Liu Xiaobo.

Then, she was released six months early from a labor camp in Anhui province because of poor health, Wu said, adding that he is worried about Mao because of her high blood pressure.

(Editing by Ben Blanchard)

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