China war veteran, 80, sent to labour camp

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.

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