World News

Chinese dissident sent to labour camp again

BEIJING (Reuters) - A Chinese woman who campaigned against a strict one-child policy was taken from her home to a labour camp on Thursday, three days after she was released from detention early on medical parole, her husband said.

Mao Hengfeng, who lives in Shanghai, was seized by a team of 30 to 50 security officials, her husband, Wu Xuewei, said, in what appeared to be the latest incident in a crackdown on dissidents.

Wu said officials gave him a photocopied notice that said Mao was found to have conducted “illegal activities”, which he said was unfounded.

“For 24 hours every day since she came back, the police have been watching us outside our door,” Wu said. “She couldn’t even go out to see the doctor. What chances can she get to break the law?”

“We are very worried ... We don’t know where she is.”

Mao’s detention came after a rash of similar incidents has underscored the government’s anxiety in the face of calls for “Jasmine Revolution” protests -- pro-democracy gatherings inspired by rallies in the Middle East.

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

With a population expected to peak at 1.65 billion in 2033, China has been cautious about dropping its one-child policy that was implemented to spare the country the pressures of feeding and clothing hundreds of millions of additional people.

Mao, 50, was sentenced last March to one and a half years of “re-education through labour” on charges of “disturbing the public order” for a protest at the trial of China’s most famous dissident, Liu Xiaobo, Wu said.

She was released six months early from a labour camp in Anhui province because of poor health, Wu said.


Catherine Bremer, Asia-Pacific deputy director of rights group Amnesty International, condemned Mao’s detention.

“It’s totally outrageous,” she said. “This case is quite unusual for somebody to be released on medical parole and then to be interfered with in this way.”

Bremer compared Mao to Chen Guangcheng, a blind activist who campaigned against forced abortions and land grabs who recently he said remained effectively jailed despite being released from prison, because of constant surveillance. [ID:nTOE71903I].

A senior official said on Thursday that China would not succumb to the kind of unrest rocking authoritarian governments across the Middle East. .

Activists have posted online messages calling for gatherings every weekend across the country but the protests have been small with those turning up outnumbered by police.

New York-based group Human Rights in China has listed 29 rights lawyers and dissidents detained, confined, searched or questioned by police or government agents since Feb. 16, although it is unclear how many were targeted because of the government’s worry about the calls for gatherings.

Editing by Robert Birsel