By Michael Evans
Authorities in Yunnan will no longer sentence prisoners to re-education through labour, making it the first province to end the long-standing but increasingly controversial practice, the AP reports:
Yunnan’s top law enforcement official Meng Sutie announced Tuesday that the province will no longer send people to labor camps on the grounds of threatening national security, petitioning by causing unrest and smearing the image of officials, according to Chinese state media and a Yunnan labor camp official.
The province also is suspending labor camp sentences for people charged with other offenses, such as drug use and prostitution, Meng said.
Those in the camps will be released after completing their terms, said Meng, who was quoted by the official Xinhua News Agency.
A nationwide end to re-education through labour, or laojiao, has been rumored for months, as the system has come under growing criticism and cases of individuals unjustly sentenced to labour camps have received widespread attention in the official media. Previous official statements suggest Yunnan’s abolition of laojiao will likely not be the last:
In January, the ruling Communist Party Politics and Law Committee head Meng Jianzhu said China would stop handing down labor camp sentences this year. But the proposal must first be approved by China’s legislature, the National People’s Congress, which will meet in March.
Yan Zhichan, director of the Department of Justice in the southern province of Guangdong, said at the end of January that her province had made preparatory work to end the labor camp system.