Human Rights in China (HRIC) has learned that Shanghai
petitioner Mao Hengfeng has been sentenced to two-and-a-half years in
prison on a charge of "intentionally destroying property."
Mao, who has
petitioned the authorities since 1988 on family planning and housing issues, has
been detained many times in the past, and has been sentenced to various terms of
Reeducation Through Labor (RTL). She has also on several occasions been forcibly
admitted for psychiatric treatment. Mao has reported torture and other abusive
treatment during her previous terms of detention and psychiatric
Mao was detained most recently during a general roundup of
petitioners shortly before the 2006 anniversary of the June 4 Crackdown. Police
subsequently charged her with "violating the terms of residential surveillance,"
and placed her under "soft detention" in a guesthouse in Shanghai's Yangpu
District, where she was forced to share cramped quarters with six other men and
women. While protesting her treatment, Mao broke two table lamps in the
guesthouse room, and as a result was formally arrested on June 30, 2006, on a
charge of "intentionally destroying property." The procuratorate sent the case
back to the Public Security Bureau for further investigation in August, and Mao
was formally indicted on December 1.
The evidence presented implicated
Mao in breaking one table lamp valued at more than 3,000 yuan (approximately
$400), and another valued at more than 2,000 yuan (approximately $250). Sources
told HRIC that rules issued by the guesthouse require compensation of only 50
yuan for a broken table lamp. Nevertheless, the Yangpu People's District Court
sentenced Mao on the basis of the 6,400 yuan value assigned to the lamps in the
HRIC condemns the prison sentence imposed on Mao
Hengfeng, which is disproportionate to the crime of which she was convicted. The
handling of this case by the public security and judicial authorities raises
strong concerns of retaliation against individuals invoking their
constitutionally-protected right to petition the authorities. HRIC calls for
Mao's immediate release pending a full and fair review of her case.