Professors Yu Jianrong and Jiang Ming’an Spar Over Future of Re-education Through Labor
In separate opinion pieces published in the Beijing News this spring (translation below), well-known legal scholars Jiang Ming’an and Yu Jianrong trade talking points on the failings and functions of China’s system of re-education through labor (RTL; abbreviated in Chinese as laojiao).
Although Jiang, a professor at Peking University Law School, authors the first piece, he is responding to Yu Jianrong’s vocal public calls for abolition of RTL. Jiang begins his April 17 opinion by acknowledging RTL’s failures. He points to two high-profile cases of death in RTL detention: the 2008 “death by cold shower,” in which an RTL prisoner reportedly suffered a brain aneurysm after being forced to shower in extremely cold conditions, and the recent “death of a skeleton” case in which an RTL prisoner allegedly suffered from a serious infection but did not receive treatment and was forced to do hard labor; the 180 cm-tall inmate reportedly weighed 35 kilos at the time of his death (a catalogue of similarly shocking deaths in detention was recently translated by Dui Hua here).
…Yu Jianrong, chairman of the Social Issues Research Center of the Rural Development Institute at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, rebuts Jiang in his own opinion piece published in the Beijing News on May 8. Yu is best known for his work on rural labor issues and social stability. He sees the rising tide of mass incidents in China as a product of China’s failure to implement rule of law, which has diverted popular dissent and its control into broken institutions such as the petitioning system and RTL.