Human Rights in China (HRIC) has received an appeal for help on behalf of a Shanghainese woman, Mao Hengfeng, who has reportedly been subjected to torture and abusive treatment because of her public protests against China’s official one-child policy.
According to HRIC’s sources, Mao Hengfeng was originally employed at a soap factory in Shanghai. In 1988 she became pregnant with her second child in contravention of China’s one-child policy. Her managers at the factory tried to force her to have an abortion, and when she resisted they bound her and took her to a psychiatric hospital, where she was forcibly admitted and injected with medication. Mao managed to retain her pregnancy in spite of official pressure and gave birth to her child, but the factory dismissed her from her job.
Mao Hengfeng appealed to the Shanghai municipal labor arbitration committee, which ruled that Mao’s dismissal was in contravention of the Labor Law and ordered that she be reinstated. The factory management disputed the ruling and appealed to the Shanghai Yangpu District Court. At the time of the court hearing, Mao was seven months pregnant with her third child. The trial judge is reported to have told Mao, “If you go and have an abortion, I’ll rule in your favor.” Mao accordingly had an abortion against her wishes, suffering severe hemorrhaging afterward, but in the end the court ruled that because Mao had contravened China’s family planning policy, the factory had a right to dismiss her.
As a result of this experience, Mao embarked on a 15-year struggle for her right to work and other basic rights. During the course of numerous petitions she has been frequently detained and on several occasions has been forcibly committed to psychiatric institutions. In the psychiatric hospitals she has been treated in a brutal and humiliating fashion and forced to receive shock therapy. Her further appeals to Beijing have resulted in her being detained by police and forced to return to Shanghai. HRIC’s sources report that Mao’s daughters, who are under 16, have also been detained and questioned about who has been assisting their mother’s protests.
Because Mao has refused to give up her petitioning, the Shanghai Municipal Public Security Bureau in April 2004 sentenced her to 18 months of Reeducation Through Labor (RTL). According to HRIC’s sources, while in detention Mao has been bound hand and foot and suspended in mid-air, and has been subjected to severe beatings to her limbs and abdomen. In addition, police are alleged to have assigned two criminals to monitor her activities in detention.
“Mao Hengfeng has every right to protest and appeal against China’s coercive family planning policies,” said HRIC president Liu Qing. “We deplore the official suppression of Mao Hengfeng’s constitutional right to petition the authorities. We even more strongly protest any retributive action taken against her underage daughters, which could put Chinese authorities in contravention of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child that China ratified in 1992. Mao Hengfeng should be released from detention, and she and her daughters should be subjected to no further harassment.”