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[The Issues]
[The Individuals]
[Shi Tao] [Chen Guangcheng]
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[Image: Mao Hengfeng]
During Mao's detention, she broke two table lamps and other objects, damage for which she is now serving prison time.

On this page:

Basic Information

Name Mao Hengfeng / 毛恒凤
Date of birth December 9, 1961
Criminal detention May 30, 2006
Formal arrest June 30, 2006
Charge Intentional damage of property
[Article 275 of the Criminal Law]
Sentence Two years and six months
Current location Shanghai Women's Prison
Date of release November 29, 2008

Overview: In Prison for Breaking Table Lamps

Mao Hengfeng, a petitioner and human rights defender, is currently serving two years and six months in prison for "intentional damage of property."
Mao has been an activist and petitioner for 20 years.

Mao has been an activist and petitioner for 20 years. She was dismissed from her soap factory job in 1988 when she refused to abort a second pregnancy, and since that time has petitioned the government for redress on that dismissal and subsequent abuses, including forcible eviction. As a result of petitioning, she has been forcibly admitted to a psychiatric hospital three times, detained multiple times, and served a one-and-a-half year sentence of Reeducation-Through-Labor (RTL).

In the first half of 2006, Mao was twice detained and placed under "residential surveillance." During her detention, she broke two table lamps and other objects, damage for which she is now serving prison time. Mao has been subject to a range of humiliating abuses in prison.
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Current Status:
Victim of Abusive and Humiliating Tactics

Like many petitioners in detention, Mao has been subjected to cruel forms of abuse: she has been bound hand and foot and suspended in mid-air, and has also been beaten and choked.[1] Prison conditions are humiliating. She has trouble walking, and has developed pain in her back and joints, as well as high blood pressure.[2] She has not been allowed to receive family visits since September 2007.

Prison officials have also violated regulations during Mao's detention: in July and August 2007, Mao was held in solitary confinement for 70 days, contravening Article 15 of the Chinese Prison Law which stipulates a maximum of 15 days.[3]

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Relevant UN and Other Official Statements

Numerous independent international experts have called attention to Mao Hengfeng and the abuse she and other petitioners have suffered in detention. Many of these experts have also spoken out on Mao's behalf and called for her release.
  • United Nations: The conditions of Mao's detention while in a Reeducation-Through-Labor facility, including beatings and torture, have been documented by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in a report in 2006.[4] Also in 2006, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the situation of human rights defenders, together with the Special Rapporteur on torture, the Chairperson-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, and the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, sent an urgent appeal concerning Mao.

  • U.S. Government: The U.S. House of Representatives International Relations Committee (now the House Committee on Foreign Affairs) held a hearing in 2004 that focused violations and coercion so-called "one-child policy" enforcement, as well as victims including Mao.[5]
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Mao Hengfeng's Story

Mao's experience as a petitioner started with a heartbreaking ordeal at her work unit nearly two decades ago. After having twin girls in 1987, Mao became pregnant again in 1988, and was determined to go through with the pregnancy. However, Mao's wishes conflicted with China's family planning policy, and her employer's policy of enforcing the policy at all costs. Because she refused to have an abortion, Mao was detained in a psychiatric hospital, forcing her to miss work. She was later dismissed from her job at the soap factory for missing 16 days of work, the days she had used to give birth and recover.
Because she refused to have an abortion, Mao was detained in a psychiatric hospital.

Mao decided to appeal the factory's decision to fire her. Her employer fought the appeal; and meanwhile, Mao became pregnant again. The judge presiding over the appeal reportedly told Mao that if she had an abortion, the court would rule in her favor. Out of concern for her family, Mao had the abortion against her wishes, but the judge ultimately sided with the soap factory on the premise that Mao had contravened family planning policies.[6]

Unemployed and having been coerced into having an abortion, Mao sought redress for the injustices inflicted upon her, and started to petition the authorities. Since 1990, Mao has protested against her dismissal and against the family planning policy, as well as on housing rights. The countermeasures and tactics used to deter Mao are commonly used against other petitioners seeking justice. Mao has been beaten and tortured. Mao has been detained in psychiatric hospitals three times.[7] While petitioning in Beijing, Mao was detained by the authorities and taken back to Shanghai. Mao has been sent to Reeducation-Through-Labor twice. Petitioners can face all these draconian tactics if they dare to speak up.
The countermeasures and tactics used to deter Mao are commonly used against other petitioners seeking justice.

Mao's most recent detention occurred after she was detained under "residential surveillance" by Shanghai's Yangpu Public Security Bureau from February 14 to March 29, 2006, and again between May 25 to May 30, 2006. During her detentions, Mao broke two table lamps and other items, and as a result was formally arrested on June 30, 2006, on charges of "intentional damage of property." Mao was sentenced to two-and-a-half years by Shanghai Yangpu District Court on January 12, 2007. The judgment was in part based on the claim that the lamps and other broken items were worth over 6,000 yuan despite the fact that guesthouse rules required only 50 yuan in compensation per broken table lamp.

Only Mao's family was able to attend her appeal, and her lawyer, Li Boguang (李柏光), was prevented from entering the room. The appeal was denied Mao's appeal was denied on April 16, 2007.[8]
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Mao's Case: Court and Other Documents
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HRIC Advocacy and Media Work on Mao Hengfeng

Below is a listing of HRIC advocacy and media work on Mao Hengfeng, including press release, statements, and case updates. To subscribe to HRIC's press list, please e-mail communications@hrichina.org with "SUBSCRIBE" as the subject heading.

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Updated News Articles

The Human Rights in China (HRIC) Daily News Brief is a daily compilation of selected human rights-related news covered in local and regional Chinese and English press compiled by HRIC's research office. Visit the Daily News Brief for recent news articles on Mao Hengfeng.



[1] Human Rights in China, "One-Child Policy Opponent Tortured," October 05, 2001, http://www.hrichina.org/public/contents/15941.

[2] Human Rights in China, "Mao Hengfeng Protests Abusive Confinement," September 19, 2007, http://www.hrichina.org/public/contents/45049.

[3] Ibid.

[4] "United Nations Economic and Social Council: Distr. General E/CN.4/2006/6/ADD/.6: Commission on Human Rights: Sixty-second session, Item 11 (a) of the provisional agenda: Civil and Political Rights, Including the Question of Torture: Report of the Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, Manfred Nowak." The report, issued on 10/03/2006, is available at http://ap.ohchr.org/documents/dpage_e.aspx?m=103.

[5] For the chairperson's statement, see "China: Human Rights Violations and Coercion in One Child Policy Enforcement," Statement from International Relations Committee Hearing, http://chrissmith.house.gov/News/DocumentSingle.aspx?DocumentID=56948.

[6] Human Rights in China, "One-Child Policy Opponent Tortured," October 5, 2004, http://www.hrichina.org/public/contents/18912.

[7] Ding Xiao [丁小], "Petitioner Mao Hengfeng Sentenced to 2-1/2 Years, Humiliated in Detention Center" [访民毛恒凤被判两年半 看守所内受凌辱], Radio Free Asia [自由亚洲电台], January 17, 2007, http://www.rfa.org/mandarin/shenrubaodao/2007/01/16/maohenfeng.

[8] Human Rights in China, "Mao Hengfeng held in abusive conditions, appeal denied," April 16, 2007, http://www.hrichina.org/public/contents/35941.

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