Local govts confused by re-education reforms

By Yang Jingjie Source:Global Times Published: 2013-1-15 0:48:01

Re-education through labor authorities in a number of provinces said they hadn't received any directions about a proposed reform into the controversial system, almost one week after a national political and legal affairs work conference vowed to advance reforms.

Secretary of the Commission for Political and Legal Affairs of the CPC Central Committee Meng Jianzhu last week was quoted by media reports as saying "the system of re-education through labor is expected to come to a stop this year,"  though official news reports later omitted this part and only mentioned the possibility of reform.

An anonymous officer with the Zhejiang Administration of Re-education Through Labor told the Global Times Monday that they hadn't received any order about the end of the system from higher authorities.

A source from the public security authority in Chongqing also said there was no formal document about the reform.

Re-education authorities in Shandong, Gansu and Shanxi provinces as well as the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region also said no information had been handed down about reform, reported the China Business Journal.

Although local authorities claimed they were unaware about the details of the reform, Hu Xingdou, a professor with the Beijing Institute of Technology and a long-time advocate of reform, said Monday that a source from the Ministry of Public Security told him the ministry had already issued an internal memo about the stopping of the system.

"There is no doubt the re-education system will be ended this year," Hu told the Global Times.

While details about the proposed reform still remain unknown, legal experts and advocates have already been discussing a replacement for the re-education system, which currently enables police to detain people for up to four years without trial.

Among various proposals, an "rectification through education" program is regarded the most likely substitute.

Four cities including Nanjing and Jinan have reportedly been undertaking pilot schemes for the new rectification program.

The Nanjing Morning Post reported that the trial program in Nanjing, which was first introduced in November 2011, has been laying the groundwork for the upcoming legislation of a rectification law.

The long-awaited law had been listed in the country's top legislature's lawmaking plans in 2005 and 2010, but little headway has been seen in recent years.

The new law would target those who commit repeat offenses but shouldn't be the subject of criminal penalties, and would help them correct their wrongdoings through education. It would entitle offenders to defend themselves with the help of lawyers at courts and appeal their sentences, according to the China Youth Daily.

Chi Susheng, a lawyer in Heilongjiang Province and deputy to the National People's Congress who has been submitting motions calling for the enacting of the rectification law, said that under the rectification program, offenders would be allowed to stay at home and receive education from and under the supervision of community organizations, instead of serving terms at re-education facilities, which totally deprives them of their freedom.

Liu Renwen, a criminal law expert at the Institute of Law under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that the delay of the legislation was due to resistance from the public security, judicial authorities and local governments.

While the re-education authorities may fear the loss of their interests, local governments are also concerned that it would be hard for them to maintain social stability without the program, said Liu.

"In fact, the re-education program has become a means to put petitioners under control by local authorities," Chi said, noting that all five cases she took last year were related to petitions.

Li Fangping, a Beijing-based lawyer, told the Global Times Monday that a replacement for the re-education system must leave petitioners out of the new program, and it should mainly target drug addicts, prostitutes and chronic gamblers.

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