Human Rights Defender Mao Hengfeng Tortured in Prison

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Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD)

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Promoting human rights and empowering grassroots activism in China

Human Rights Defender Mao Hengfeng Tortured in Prison

The Chinese government must investigate accusations of torture and ill-treatment in the Shanghai prison

(Chinese Human Rights Defenders, July 4, 2007) – According to the husband of Mao Hengfeng, jailed human rights defender in Shanghai, Mao Hengfeng has been tortured and ill-treated in prison. Ms. Mao’s husband was allowed to visit her in prison on June 28, 2007.

“The prison authorities tried to force her to admit guilt and punish her by putting her under inhumane conditions in prison,” said Ms. Mao’s husband.

Mao Hengfeng told her husband that she was severely beaten and sexually harrassed on May 15, 2007. In the morning, around 6 am, when she was transferred from the police detention center (拘留所) to a prison, she was only given one very thin and loose shirt to wear, which could hardly cover her body. She said she was almost naked when she was sent to the prison. When she protested, police beat her up. At the prison, Ms. Mao has been put in solitary confinement, barred from any contact with anyone else. She launched a hunger strike to protest the humiliation and solitary confinement. Prison guards forced her to eat by pushing food down into her stomach. They did this three times. They tied her hands and opened her mouth by force, inserted a tube into her throat, and pushed food down the tube. Prison guards then assigned several inmates to watch her, who also followed orders to abuse her verbally.

Her husband found her very ill and weak. She suffers from high blood pressure and arthritis with painful joints. At the police detention center, before she was transferred to the prison, she had been confined in a room without any chair or bed for many months. In the prison now, the same harsh conditions have continued. Everyday, she has to sit or lie on the cold, wet concrete floor.

Mao’s husband has requested that the prison authorities allow Ms. Mao’s lawyer to visit her and help her prepare for an appeal against her sentence. The family also requested that the inhumane conditions under which Ms. Mao’s is being held be changed.

Chinese Human Rights Defenders urges the Chinese government to adhere to international treaty obligations under the Convention against Torture. China signed the convention twenty years ago, in 1988. The government must investigate the allegations that prison officials at the Shanghai jail where Ms Mao is held committed criminal acts.

From CHRD archives, “Human Rights Defenders in Prison”: /Article/Class9/Class48/Class79/200705/20070531225955_4503.html

Mao Hengfeng (毛恒凤): A Shanghai activist who has been active in defending housing rights and opposing forced evictions and also in promoting women’s reproductive rights. Mao was arrested on January 24, 2006, and detained until February 8. On February 15, she was again apprehended by police and held incommunicado for 45 days. She has remained in jail since. In May 2006, she was formally arrested on charges of breaking a lamp during her last incarceration at a government guest house. Shanghai’s Yangpu District Court sentenced her on January 12, 2007, to two and a half years for “vandalizing public property.” On April 16, 2007, the Shanghai Municipal Intermediate Court rejected her appeal and upheld the verdict. The public prosecutor accused the defendant of breaking two lamps, each valued at 6,000 yuan.

Mao Hengfeng had been illegally imprisoned multiple times prior to the most recent verdict, having spent more than 10 months in detention in 2006 alone. Mao’s family reported she had been subjected to various forms of abuse during confinement. They said that police forced Mao to wear coverings with strong chemical odors over her mouth to silence her protests. After she entered the prison, they said, guards stripped Mao naked as a means of humiliation and ordered other female inmates to beat her. In her cell, entirely sealed except for a palm-sized window, Mao was long denied a bed and chairs, and sewage ran on the floor of the cell, making it essentially uninhabitable. Mao was prevented from sitting and sleeping as penalty for her “non-cooperation.”

Mao was previously employed at a Shanghai Soap Factory, but her job was terminated in 1988 for her refusal to terminate her pregnancy with a third child after she had previously given birth to twins. Mao repeatedly appealed the decision from 1990 to 2004, during which period she was once forcibly committed to a psychiatric hospital. In 2004, the Shanghai Public Security Bureau sent Mao to a Re-education through Labor camp for 18 months, during which time she was subjected to considerable maltreatment. Following her discharge on September 12, 2005, Mao recommenced filing legal complaints on the behalf of herself and of other victims of housing rights infringements, for which she has since been repeatedly subject to unlawful detention.


Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) is a non-political, non-government network of grassroots and international activists promoting human rights protection and empowering grassroots activism in China. CHRD’s objective is to build NGO capacities, monitor rights development, and assist victims of abuse. CHRD advocates non-violent and rule of law approaches. CHRD conducts investigation and research, provides information, organizes training, supports a program of small grants, and offers legal assistance.

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