The Chinese government will advance reforms for its controversial re-education through labor system this year, according to a national political and legal work conference held on Monday. As China.org reported in a story released yesterday, the move comes as a reform
to policies allowing police to detain people for up to four years without an open trial, leading experts to argue that it contradicts high-level laws, including China’s constitution. In a follow-up story, the New York Times reported that while the government report lack details, “legal advocates said they were hopeful that the five-decade-old system for locking up offenders without trial would be significantly modified, if not abolished altogether.
“’If true, this would be an important advance,’ said Zhang Qianfan, a law professor at Peking University who has long pushed for the system’s demise. ‘It’s a tool that is widely abused.”
“Established by Mao Zedong in the 1950s to swiftly neutralize political opponents, re-education through labor has evolved into a sprawling extralegal system of 350 camps where more than 100,000 people toil in prison factories and on farms for up to four years. Sentences ar
e meted out by local public security officials, and defendants have no access to lawyers and little chance for appeal.
“Since the 1980s, legal scholars and human rights advocates have been urging an end to the system and urging that the prosecution of minor offenses be shifted to criminal courts. The campaign has been re-energized in recent months by several cases, widely promoted in the news media, in which people were consigned to the camps for criticizing or simply annoying local party officials.”