A Chinese blogger is seeking compensation for a one-year labor camp sentence he served after posting a brief poem mocking now-disgraced politician Bo Xilai, in a test of the legal system's willingness to examine scores of alleged abuses committed under his rule.
Retired civil servant Fang Hong said he filed an appeal Tuesday at the No. 3 Intermediate Court in the mega-city of Chongqing where Bo held extensive powers until he was recently sacked as municipal Communist Party chief and suspended from other posts in China's biggest political scandal in years.
Bo was reprimanded after his former police chief, Wang Lijun, visited the U.S. consulate in nearby Chengdu after a falling-out between the two men. Bo's wife and an aide have also been named suspects in the death of a British businessman.
Since the fall of one of China's formerly most powerful officials, numerous Bo critics and targets of his crackdown on organized crime are believed to be seeking redress.
However, Fang is the first known to have his paperwork requesting that his guilty verdict be overturned and about $6,000 in compensation accepted by a court. The court is then supposed to issue a response within seven days as to whether it will consider the case. Calls to the Chongqing court rang unanswered Tuesday.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Fang said he wasn't sure whether the court would act. With no word yet on Bo's ultimate fate, city officials seem to be hesitant to reverse earlier verdicts, he said.
"Things are not completely back to normal. People are still afraid in Chongqing, and despite knowing all those trials and sentences were wrong, officials are still afraid of taking responsibility," Fang said.
Fang, who was released April 28, said he was allowed one 18-day furlough during his year in the labor camp, part of a controversial network of detention centers used to punish minor criminals, protesters and dissidents with terms of up to three years. He said officials tried to force him to promise not to criticize officials or the party by threatening to lock up his son. Psychological abuse was common and days were spent making Christmas ornaments for export to Europe, Fang said.
Writing under the name "Bamboo shot Fang," the 51-year-old former Chongqing forestry officer was already known as a sharp-tongued critic of Bo's signature policies of fighting gangs and promoting the public singing of Mao Zedong-era propaganda songs.
But it was the scatological two-line ditty about Bo and Wang posted to his microblog April 21 last year_ and which soon went viral _ that brought the authorities' wrath down on Fang. Called to a police station for questioning, he was put before a police tribunal and sentenced for "fabricating facts and disturbing public order," according to a document issued by the Chongqing Reform Through Labor Committee.
Pu Zhiqiang, one of three high-powered Beijing lawyers advising Fang, said his client's case showed the lengths Bo and Wang were willing to go to stifle criticism, as well as the ease with which the labor camp system _ which is supposed to punish petty criminals _ can be abused.
"This case is part of a larger problem in China where citizens lack freedom of speech to comment on public policies," Pu said.