China woman held in morgue for three years: media

A Chinese woman was held in an abandoned morgue for three years after serving hard labour for complaining about her husband's own detention, state-run media said today.

Chen Qingxia was guarded by sanitation workers at the facility in the northeastern province of Heilongjiang, the Global Times said.

Her difficulties began in 2003 when her husband was sentenced to "re-education through labour" for attempting to escape quarantine during a SARS epidemic.

After he was freed, his body showed bruising and his mental health deteriorated, prompting Chen to travel to Beijing to petition higher-ranking authorities about his treatment.

As a result she served 18 months in a re-education camp herself -- a common punishment for would-be petitioners -- and after finishing her sentence was kept in the morgue.

She was "now confined to a wheelchair and her health has severely deteriorated", the Global Times said, adding that her husband was diagnosed with schizophrenia after his release and eventually sent to a mental hospital.

Local officials had promised her compensation, the paper said.

The re-education through labour system has come under criticism in recent months and state media quoted a senior legal official as saying this week that it would be abolished this year.

Victims of the controversial scheme can be sentenced to up to four years by a police panel, without an open trial.

Opponents say the system, initially set up under Mao Zedong to punish mild offences, is used to silence government critics and petitioners.

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