A Chinese woman who protested the country's strict one-child policy was re-arrested and taken to an unknown labor camp after she was initially released from a different facility one day earlier on medical parole.
Fifty year-old Mao Hengfeng, who lives in Shanghai, was seized by over 10 security agents from her home on Feb. 23 and transported to an undisclosed labor camp. The move is being seen as the latest effort by the Chinese government to suppress suspected dissidents, following online calls for a Jasmine-style revolution.
Her husband, Wu Xuewei, told Reuters that officials gave him a photocopy of a written notice that claimed his wife had taken part in “illegal activities.” Wu said the charges are completely unfounded, given that in the 24 hours she was home, their house was under constant guard by the police.
“We are very worried,” he added. “We don't know where she is.”
Mao, who has three daughters, has been petitioning authorities since she was fired from her job at a soap factory in 1988 after becoming pregnant with her second child. Her second daughter defied China's stringent one-child policy, which has been in effect in the country since 1980.
She was sentenced last March to one and a half years of “re-education through labor” on charges of “disturbing the public order” for protesting the trial of China's famous dissident and recent Nobel Peace Prize winner, Liu Xiaobo.
However, Mao was released six months early from a labor camp in Anhui province on Feb. 22 because of her declining health. Her blood pressure was listed at “Level III” – the highest-risk level according to the Chinese Ministry of Health.
The World Organization Against Torture reported that Mao's medical exams from the previous labor camp showed that the left side of her head and her lower back were badly injured. She was allegedly subjected to hostile treatment at the Anhui facility, including beatings by guards attempting to force her to admit that she had made disparaging remarks about the communist government.
Catherine Baber, Asia-Pacific deputy director of rights group Amnesty International, condemned Mao's detention, calling it “totally outrageous.”
“This case is quite unusual for somebody to be released on medical parole and then to be interfered with in this way,” Baber told Reuters Feb. 24.
Mao's re-arrest seems to be one in a series of similar incidents, in which the government has demonstrated fear over anonymous, online references to a planned “Jasmine Revolution”—a reference to the mostly peaceful overthrow of the government in Tunisia.
Although the protests –inspired by current uprisings in the Middle East – haven't taken place in the country yet, Chinese officials have begun a sharp crackdown. Foreign journalists have been harassed and threatened with expulsion from the country and simple activities such as walking down streets at certain times in certain cities could be viewed as an act of defiance, according to NPR.
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders released a statement March 2, criticizing officials for canceling Mao's medical parole, despite “her alarming health situation, and fears for her physical and psychological integrity.”
The observatory – a joint program of the World Organization Against Torture and the International Federation for Human Rights – called upon Chinese authorities “to take prompt action in order to immediately and unconditionally release” Mao, and “to put an end to the harassment against her, which seems to merely aim at sanctioning her human rights activities.”