Re-education victim vows to continue campaign

By Yang Jingjie Source:Global Times Published: 2012-11-22 0:25:05

Legal advocates are hoping to push for reforms in the country's controversial re-education through labor system as the public voice their support for a lawsuit brought by a local village official against Chongqing's re-education through labor committee.

Ren Jianyu, 25, was freed Monday after serving 15 months in detention for "attacking" the municipality's red song campaign online. However, a lawsuit suing the committee was dropped by a local court Tuesday.

Ren told the Global Times over the phone Wednesday that he will bring the case to the Chongqing Municipal Higher People's Court in 10 days.

Ren has been under pressure to cut a deal with the court, but refused to give up. "They hinted that if I don't drop the case, a reinstatement for me would be impossible," said Ren.

"I hope my case could set a precedent for similar cases, and my 15-month detention could benefit all the people," said Ren.

Ren's case has triggered enormous public attention, with hundreds of thousands throwing their support behind him via the Internet and calling for reforms to fix the system.

In an online discussion on Sina Weibo Wednesday, Ren said the biggest problem of the re-education system is that it shackles freedom of speech.

The People's Daily, a flagship paper of the CPC Central Committee, also carried an editorial Wednesday on Ren's case, saying that the re-education system has been "caught in an awkward situation in its legitimacy."

It also questioned the ambiguity in the system and indicated that it has become an instrument for retaliation in some cases.

The system allows sentences to be handed down without trial in court and is used as an administrative punishment for those who are minor offenders instead of criminals.

According to the Procuratoral Daily, Wang Gongyi, director of a research institute under the Ministry of Justice, said last month that more than 60,000 people are currently undergoing re-education through labor programs, and the number once reached around 300,000. Most of these served terms between six and 12 months.

Wang Cheng, a Hangzhou-based lawyer who initiated a campaign to abolish the system, told the Global Times Wednesday that he had collected more than 9,800 signatures, a figure approaching his target of 10,000, which is when he will submit it to China's top legislature.

Wang Cheng said he regards the level of public attention on Ren's case and the earlier release of Tang Hui, a mother of an underage rape victim, as encouraging signs to press for changes.

The public's concern over the system has prompted the authorities to acknowledge that some loopholes exist in its regulations and procedures. Jiang Wei, a senior official in charge of China's judicial system reform, said last month the country is formulating reforms to labor re-education. Four cities have reportedly been undertaking pilot schemes.

However, legal reform advocates have struck a cautious note on the progress of reform.

Li Fangping, a Beijing-based lawyer who wrote to the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Public Security along with nine other lawyers calling for reforms to the system, said that the release of Ren was more aimed at remedying the practices of former Chongqing Party chief Bo Xilai, but doesn't have universal significance throughout the country.

Wang Cheng echoed the idea, adding that out of concern for social stability, local governments are likely to resist abolishing the system.

Though there is a basic common understanding on the need to reform the system, Li noted that the government hasn't made up its mind on direction of the reform, and pilot reform schemes have lacked transparency.


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