(I am REALLY NOT moving to China anymore).
By CHRISTOPHER BODEEN, Associated Press Writer
SHANGHAI, China - A woman who posted an article on the Internet criticizing the way China's government handles public complaints has been sentenced to 18 months in a labor camp, a human rights group said Thursday.
Ma Yalian used several Chinese legal affairs Web sites to post the article documenting her fruitless efforts to petition over the destruction of her Shanghai home, New York-based Human Rights in China, or HRIC, said in a statement.
Ma described police violence and harassment of her and other petitioners, the group said. She said some protested by committing suicide outside government offices.
HRIC said Ma was sentenced on March 16 by Shanghai's Re-education Through Labor Management Committee. It said the committee accused her of "falsely accusing Shanghai authorities of causing her physical injury," and having "turned petitioning into pestering."
Shanghai police said they had no information about Ma, and the phone number for the Re-education Through Labor Management Committee was not listed.
Chinese law permits such committees to sentence people to up to three years in labor camps without trial. Intended to punish minor criminals, prostitutes and drug addicts, the system is also frequently used to quiet political and religious dissenters.
Critics call the system unconstitutional, but officials say it's needed to maintain order across the huge nation.
Ma's case underscores China's efforts to squelch dissent on the Internet, which it polices heavily for content critical of the government and Communist Party.
Dozens of people have been sentenced to prison for posting or downloading such materials and authorities recently expanded their reach by cracking down on blogs — online diaries that sometimes include critical commentary on politics and society.
China allows citizens to register complaints through a nationwide network of offices, but the system is frequently criticized as slow, bureaucratic and ineffective. Chinese legal scholars say officials aren't legally obligated to respond.
During the annual session of China's parliament last month, hundreds of people who had made their way to Beijing from other parts of the country to present petitions to lawmakers were detained in a gymnasium in the capital.
Many complaints arise from the loss of homes to redevelopment projects. Petitioners usually say they were victims of collusion between officials and developers or weren't compensated.
HRIC said authorities appeared to be cracking down harder on petitioners. It cited recent cases of people in Shanghai being sentenced to labor camps after protesting forced relocations.
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