By Beth Main.
Chinese authorities are believed to be considering reforming the re-education through labour system… maybe. State media initially quoted Meng Jianzhu, the Communist Party’s top security official, as saying the party planned to stop using or abolish the system this year. This was then amended to be a ‘reform’ not ‘abolition’.
The system, which has been in place since 1957, previously allowed police to detain people for up to four years without an open trial which is essentially… illegal. Chinese academics, rights activists, legal scholars and international rights groups have been debating the unconstitutional nature of the system for over a decade.
The system is mostly used for petty criminals, dissidents, legal petitioners and members of illegal religious groups such as Falun Gong. Some 200,000 to 400,000 people were detained in more than 300 labour camps in 2011, according to estimates by human rights groups. There are an estimated 350 labour camps in unspecified locations throughout China.
The announcement comes after two recent news stories involving the system. 25-year-old Ren Jiayu was sent to a labour camp for two years in September 2011 for posting negative information on Weibo and subverting state power. Ren was released on November 19, right before the 18th Party Congress.
In Hunan last August, mother Tang Hui was sentenced to 18 months in a labour camp after demanding tougher penalties for seven men who were convicted of abducting, raping and prostituting her 11-year-old daughter. She was released within a week following complaints from academics, state media and the public.
No further announcements have been made although a report on the re-education through labour camp system is expected to be presented to the National Peoples Congress before the end of the year.