The Chinese government was met with mild praise (and a lot of, ‘what took you so long?’) when it announced the end of the ‘re-education through labor’ system last month. It looks as though some of that praise may have been premature, as many of the camps are being converted into “compulsory drug rehabilitation centers,” which sound positively terrifying.
The story is detailed in a Reuters piece which is definitely worth reading in full, but it can be distilled as follows:
Many of China’s re-education through labour camps, instead of being abolished in line with a ruling Communist Party announcement this month, are being turned into compulsory drug rehabilitation centres where inmates can be incarcerated for two years or more without trial. […]
New York-based Human Rights Watch estimates more than 60 percent of the 160,000 people in labour camps at the start of the year were there for drug offences. Those people were unlikely to see any change in their treatment, it said.
“The drug detox people are doing exactly the same work,” said Li, who spent 19 months in a labour camp in Kunming, the capital of southern Yunnan province. […]
Nicholas Bequelin, senior Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch, said he believed the “great majority” of forced labour camps would keep functioning as drug rehab centres.
The shift did not represent a change of “direction or principles” on the part of the party, added Jiang Tianyong, a human rights lawyer in Beijing.
“It’s wrong to say it has no meaning, but it’s too optimistic to think it will change a lot,” he said.
Many non-drug offenders have been released from the labor camps, which is great news if you set your bar for success as incredibly, inches-above-the-floor low.