Caixin
Jan 08, 2013 06:44 PM

Closer look: Shutter Labor Camp System for Good, Legal Experts Urge

(Beijing) – Legal experts called on the government to follow through with abolishing the country's notorious system of labor camps.

On January 7, Politburo member Meng Jianzhu said at a top conference that the system would "cease to be used." Caixin learned of the comments from a person who attended the meeting.

Meng said the decision required the approval of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC), which will meet this spring, but disappointed some by stopping short of saying it should be abolished. 

Zhang Qianfan, a law professor at Peking University, said "cease" meant police would stop handing out sentences to the camps, "but we don't know whether there will be other new measures or whether the labor system will be replaced by new legislation."

He called for the system that allows police to send people to the camps without appearing in court to be abolished and for courts to be in charge of who was sent to jail.

Some of the rules that support the system could be incorporated into the misdemeanor category of the Criminal Law, which can incur up to three years in jail, Zhang said. He also pointed out that the Administrative Punishment Law allows police to detain suspects for less than two weeks and this was sufficient for punishing some minor crimes.

The major obstacle to reform, Zhang said, was that law enforcement officials had come to rely on the system, which some refer to as reeducation through labor, to maintain stability.

Ding Jinkun, a lawyer at the DeBund Law Offices in Shanghai, said lawmakers should proceed carefully. "They should listen to public opinion and legal experts, and carry out the process under the scope of constitution," Ding said.

The NPC is mulling a draft of the Illegal Acts Correction Law, which is intended to create a new corrections system. The draft was put forward by the NPC Standing Committee in 2005, but has been shelved due to protests by the Ministry of Public Security.

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