China to end ‘re-education’ camps



China’s “re-education” labor camps are set to be abolished this year, state media Monday quoted a legal official as saying. It is another signal that the widely criticized system — where people can be sentenced to up to four years’ “re-education” by a police panel, without an open trial — is coming to an end.

About 60,000 people are detained in the camps, officials say, most of whom serve from six months to a year. Earlier this month, reports emerged the system — known as “laojiao” — would be abolished. But they were swiftly deleted and replaced with predictions of reform, with few details and no timetable.

Chen Jiping, deputy director of the China Law Society, was quoted by the China Daily as saying a key meeting had agreed tightly to limit use of the system until it could be scrapped by China’s rubber-stamp legislature, the National People’s Congress.

It added in reported speech that he described laojiao as having “made its contribution at a time when the Communist Party of China was consolidating the republic and rectifying social order, but now China has well-established legal systems.”

“Ending the system requires the approval of the top legislature which originally endorsed laojiao in 1957, ” the paper said. The annual session of the NPC is due to be held in March.

Currently, people sentenced under the laojiao system are forced to perform manual labor such as farm or factory work, but do not receive a criminal conviction. Authorities will need to replace it with alternative punishments for those accused of petty offenses, the paper added. “Chen’s remarks suggest offenders are likely instead to get a court hearing, short-term detention or a fine,” the newspaper said, citing “experts.”