August 29, 2012
Translated by Tang Xiangyang
China’s “Re-education through labor” system (劳动教养) – a long-criticized administrative detention procedure where people can be imprisoned and subjected to hard labor without trial for up to four years - might be nearing its end.
The cities of Nanjing, Lanzhou, Zhengzhou and Jinan are piloting a replacement system called “education and correction of violations” (违法行为教育矫治).
Officials said the core of the new system was “education and letting those who’ve been educated back into society.”
Chen Zhonglin (陈忠林), a member of the National People’s Congress (NPC) and law professor with Chongqing University, has taken part in official discussions related to the introduction of the new system. Professor Chen said there was a consensus that the “education and correction of violations” system should have “a smaller scale and more reasonable procedures” than the re-education through labor system. However, opinions diverged when talking about which government agency should have authority over the system.
The “re-education-through-labor” system was launched in 1957 and was nearly phased out during the Cultural Revolution. In the 1980s, however, it was re-introduced with the intent to punish petty crime. Since then, its coverage has included minor offenders not deemed worth sending through formal criminal procedures. However, the system has often been abused for political purposes and silencing dissent.
Critics say re-education through labor is against the principles of China’s Constitution, The Legislation Law (立法法) and the Administrative Coercion Law (行政强制法). It’s improper to restrict people’s liberty for so long and the decision process for who should be “re-educated” lacks transparency.
Last November, the Nanjing government formed a committee to oversee “education and correction of violations” within the local Public Security Bureau (PSB).
“The problem is which government agency should be the examining and approving organization,” said Chen Zhonglin. “Currently the PSB is both player and referee. That has to be changed.”
Links and Sources
Beijing News: 四市试点劳教制度改革