Back in January, the government announced its plans to reform and/or abolish China’s infamous Reeducation Through Labor (RTL) system and release its—often-untried—prisoners. It now appears as though Guangzhou may be leading the charge against RTL, with a senior judge in the city announcing the program’s end by 2014.
Yu Mingyong, president of the Guangzhou Intermediate People’s Court, describes the system as “outdated,” and has announced that the city’s 100 prisoners will be released within the coming months. Guangzhou stopped accepting new detainees in March.
The tide has definitively turned against Reeducation Through Labor, to the point where even China Daily will publish a pretty good attack on the system:
The laojiao [Reeducation Through Labor] system was established in the early 1950s and legalized in 1957 by China’s top legislature. It allows authorities to detain people for minor crimes for up to four years without trial. […]
“But now China has established legal procedures and facilities for prosecuting and punishing petty criminals, rendering laojiao obsolete,” Wang told China Daily.
Public opposition to the practice has grown stronger in recent years, particularly among legal professionals. In response, in one of his first speeches after taking office, Premier Li Keqiang promised reforms to laojiao.
“The system should come to an end, as it runs counter to legal procedures and infringes on the rights of a citizen,” Wang said, adding that it also creates opportunities for police corruption and abuse of power, as officers can put people in labor camps without any court ruling.
“Abolishing laojiao is significant in promoting the rule by law, protecting human rights and standardizing legal procedures,” he added.
Peng Peng, a senior researcher from the Guangzhou Academy of Social Sciences, agreed that laojiao jeopardizes legal rights.
“Guangzhou can be a role model in gradually abolishing the decades-old system,” Peng said.