Re-education Through Labor To Be “Abolished”

Following reports, which were later removed from official news websites, that the re-education through labor (laojiao) system would be reformed, officials have now made the “most authoritative” statement yet about their plans. From China Daily:

The use of the controversial laojiao system will be tightly restricted, with lawmakers expected to approve its abolition this year, a top government legal adviser has confirmed.

Chen Jiping, deputy director of the China Law Society, said the changes to laojiao, or re-education through labor, announced at the national political and legal work conference on Jan 7, are imminent.

As part of discussions with legal experts from law societies nationwide about the major tasks, he said the closed-door conference had committed to reducing the use of the controversial punishment this year until the National People’s Congress, the top legislature, can entirely scrap the system.

AFP has more background on the system and recent public anger over its implementation:

It is another signal that the widely criticised system – where people can be sentenced to up to four years’ re-education by a police panel, without an open trial – is coming to an end.

The comments come after the Communist Party’s newly installed leader Xi Jinping said the organisation recognised as a “pressing problem” that it was “out of touch with the people”.

Opponents say the camps are used to silence government critics and would-be petitioners who seek to bring their complaints against officials to higher authorities.

Earlier this month reports emerged briefly that the system – known as laojiao – would be abolished, but they were swiftly deleted and replaced with predictions of reforms, with few details and no timetable.

Because of its use against dissidents and petitioners, human rights activists have expressed concern that the government has not yet explained if another form of “administrative detention” will replace laojiao. From a statement from Human Rights Watch:

Public outrage over RTL cases has grown in recent months, particularly about RTL punishments given to individuals who complain about the government and who express their opinions online, including Tang Hui, a mother sent to RTL in 2012 for complaining to the government about the rape of her young daughter. In 2012, a senior official responsible for judicial system reforms acknowledged that there was “consensus” for “reforming the RTL system.” Other recent government decisions, such as removing the head of the Ministry of Public Security as a permanent member of the Standing Committee of the Politburo in 2012, may also reflect central government awareness of public anger over the impunity enjoyed by the domestic security apparatus.

Over the summer of 2012, authorities announced a pilot scheme in four cities to test out reforms to the system. Little is known about these “reforms” except that the name of the system has been changed to “Education and Correction.” It is therefore unclear, after the government “stops using” the system, whether it will be reformed, abolished, or replaced by another administrative detention system with a different name.

Read more background about the re-education through labor system and recent cases that have generated public outrage, via CDT.