08/30/2008, 00.00
CHINA
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Labor camp sentence revoked for two elderly Beijing women

They had been sentenced to a year of "reeducation through labor" for asking for permission to protest during the Olympics. No public reason has been given for the reversal: perhaps it is nothing more than concern over the country's image.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) - The Chinese authorities have withdrawn the sentence of a year in prison camp for the two elderly women who had asked for permission to demonstrate during the Olympics, in one of the three parks designated by the government for this purpose. Human Rights Watch affirms that the authorities have not given any explanation for this change of perspective.

On August 17, the authorities had sentenced Wu Dianyuan, 79, and her neighbor Wang Xiuying, 77, to a year of "reeducation through labor". The reason: they had insisted at least five times on demanding permission to be allowed to express their criticisms against the government. Wu and Wang are two of the more than 1.5 million residents of Beijing who had their homes and property expropriated to make way for the Olympic construction projects, without receiving any compensation.

Their fate raised a great deal of sympathy all over the world. In all likelihood, in the attempt to save the excellent image created with the Olympics, the state thought it was not worth it to send two persons, each of them nearly 80 years old, to forced labor.

During the Beijing Olympics, the authorities received 77 requests for demonstrations, but no one was given permission to carry them out. Many of those who made the requests were forcibly ejected from the city.

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