On January 7, state media reported a statement made by Meng Jianzhu – the secretary of the CCP Central Committee’s Commission for Political and Legal Affairs – at a national judicial conference: that China’s re-education through labor system (RTL) was expected to come to an end by the closing of 2013. An article from The Economist covering Meng’s recent statement quickly outlines the controversial RTL system:
Established in 1957 under Mao, the system (known as laojiao) has been used as an easy way for police, on their own authority, to imprison people. Official statistics from the endof 2008 show that 160,000 people were imprisoned in 350 laojiao facilities nationwide. (Laojiao camps are different from other camps formerly known as laogai, whose inmates have been through the judicial system.) Foreign pressure groups say there are more.
Dissidents have been among those imprisoned this way, but only as a very small proportion of the total. Many more are suspected drug addicts, prostitutes or petitioners. House-church Christians and adherents to officially banned spiritual groups, such as Falun Gong, have also been dealt with through laojiao camps. The lack of oversight has left the police and camp operators free to abuse the system to settle personal vendettas or profit from the work of prisoners.
After Meng’s statement, some expressed excitement while others aired their doubts. Microblog coverage of and commentary on the declaration quickly began disappearing, and Xinhua issued a story “watering down” Meng’s sweeping statement, fanning skepticism of the abolishment that Meng had seemingly outlined. CNN reports:
After media outlets confirmed the news with officials who attended the meeting Meng spoke at, the original articles reporting the decision vanished from the Internet. A subsequent Xinhua news story watered down Meng’s statement, committing the government only to “advancing reforms” of RTL —
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