Lesson of fight for justice

Updated: 2013-07-16 09:29

(China Daily)

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A woman petitioner's winning of a case against a local committee in charge of laojiao, or reeducation through labor, may go down in history as the costly trigger for nationwide soul-searching over the long-controversial punishment.

The People's High Court of Hunan Province ruled on Monday that Tang Hui, a 40-year-old mother of a girl who was raped and forced into prostitution at the age of 11, should be compensated 1,600 yuan ($260) for being detained in a reeducation through labor facility for nine days and 1,000 yuan for the mental suffering it caused.

However, while upholding the charge of "disturbing social order" by which the Yongzhou laojiao committee threw Tang into the reeducation facility, the high court has based its ruling on a technical error the committee committed by detaining Tang after it revoked a previous decision.

Tang's compromised triumph over the injustice she has suffered may mark a step toward the rule of law, but what really matters and is of significance is the tenacity this rural woman has displayed in seeking justice for herself and her daughter.

Tang's belief and persistence in the rule of law eventually helped bring the main culprits to justice - two were executed, four sentenced to life imprisonment and one to 15 years imprisonment. Yet in the long process her petitions and visits to higher-level authorities also brought her a lot of trouble from the local government and last August, the local laojiao committee reached a decision for her reeducation through labor, which was invalidated by provincial authorities soon afterwards only with no compensation.

But Tang's efforts paid off in the end. Still, they are a sad illustration of the troubles a victimized individual citizen has to go through to seek justice.

Her case, along with other similar cases, has focused national attention on the reeducation through labor system, which has, to some extent, become a means used by local governments to bring "troublemakers" under control.

When he met reporters after the National People's Congress in March, Premier Li Keqiang said a plan to reform the laojiao system was in the making and will probably be announced this year.

Tang's example is a reminder that efforts to reform the country's judicial institutions are urgently needed.