China detains woman at disused mortuary for three years

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A Chinese woman who petitioned the authorities over the treatment of her husband at a labour camp has been detained at a disused mortuary for the past three years, state media report.

Chen Qingxia had already served 18 months at a re-education camp for her campaign, but continued to fight and so was confined to the mortuary.

Reports of her ordeal in the province of Heilongjiang have triggered an outcry on social media.

Ms Chen is said to be in poor health.

But correspondents say that it looks likely that restrictions on her will be relaxed soon - a committee has been formed in the city of Yichun to re-examine her case.

There has also been some speculation in recent weeks that the Chinese authorities might reform or rethink its system of re-education through labour.

Ms Chen's ordeal began in 2003 when her husband was imprisoned for attempting to breach a quarantine during a Sars epidemic, according to the Global Times newspaper.

After he was freed, media reports say, his body was bruised and his mental health had deteriorated so much that Ms Chen decided to travel to the capital, Beijing, to complain to the central authorities about the treatment he had received.

The move led to her being put through a re-education camp for 18 months. After finishing the sentence, she was kept in the mortuary because she was still determined to continue her campaign.

A China National Radio report says that Mrs Chen has been allowed minimal contact with relatives.

Her husband was eventually admitted to hospital for treatment for his mental-health problems, the Global Times said.

The Communist Party's district chief has been quoted by local television as saying local officials should bear responsibility for Mrs Chen's treatment.

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