by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) Dec 5, 2012
An 80 year old Chinese war veteran spent a year and a half in a "re-education" camp for trying to complain about a policeman, his son said Wednesday, the latest in a series of high-profile labour camp cases.
Liu Chunshan, a veteran of the Chinese Civil War and Korean War, was sent to a "re-education through labour" camp after he visited Beijing 37 times to try to complain about a local policeman, state broadcaster CCTV reported.
The dispute stemmed from rows with officers over Liu's scrap metal recycling business.
Authorities in Liaoning province offered to pay Liu not to visit Beijing, but sentenced him to one and a half years of "re-education through labour" after he persisted in his campaign, CCTV said. He has now been released.
His son, Liu Xuebo confirmed the contents of the report to AFP.
China's re-education through labour system gives police the right to hand out sentences of up to four years without a judicial trial. A 2009 United Nations report estimated that 190,000 Chinese were locked up in such facilities.
Life in the camps can vary widely, but many prisoners face extremely long work days manufacturing goods for international markets or doing agricultural work, the Duihua Foundation, a US-based rights group, said in a report.
Chinese media have grown more vocal in exposing inhumane cases of re-education through labour in recent months, with some opinion page pieces calling for the system to be abolished completely.
State media harshly criticised authorities for sentencing college student Ren Jianyu, to two years in a labour camp for posting messages critical of the local government online. Last month he was released early.
A government spokesman said in October that the re-education through labour system had "played an important role in keeping social order", but admitted that there were "problems" with the system which required reforms.
A Chinese lawyer whose online petition for the abolition of the system collected 10,000 signatures was ordered by local authorities not to grant interviews to foreign media, Radio Free Asia reported on Tuesday.
China dismisses Nobel demands for Liu's release
Liu is serving 11 years in prison for inciting subversion and a battalion of Nobel winners from across six disciplines sent incoming Chinese president Xi Jinping an open letter urging him to free the activist.
"China is firmly opposed to the outside world interfering into China's judicial sovereignty and internal affairs in any form," said foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei.
"China is a country under the rule of law. Liu Xiaobo was sentenced to imprisonment by China's judicial authorities for violating the law."
In their letter, the 134 Nobel laureates noted that no government "can restrict freedom of thought and association without having a negative effect on... important human innovation".
They said they hoped China's new political leadership will "take concrete steps towards embracing the fundamental rights of all Chinese citizens".
"An essential first step is the immediate and unconditional release of Dr. Liu Xiaobo and his wife Liu Xia," they wrote.
Liu Xia has been held incommunicado under house arrest since October 2010, when her husband was awarded the prize. No charges have been brought against her.
Spokesman Hong refused to comment on her situation, but insisted that "the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese nationals are protected by China's constitution and laws".
The open letter's signatories included Peruvian Mario Vargas Llosa (2010 Literature); East Timor's Jose Ramos-Horta (1996 Peace); and South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu (1984 Peace).
Liu, who was jailed previously for his involvement in the 1989 Tiananmen pro-democracy protests, was sentenced in 2009 after co-authoring a bold manifesto for change in China.
China lashed out after his Nobel award and refused to allow him to attend the ceremony in Oslo -- where he was represented instead by an empty chair.
China News from SinoDaily.com
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