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Regional heads of China's re-education through labour system have heard nothing from Beijing, say state media

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 16 January, 2013, 7:57am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 16 January, 2013, 9:43am

China abroad | China at home

Chinese legal expert Jerome Cohen today explains why the recent statement by security tsar Meng Jianzhu, that the practice of re-education through labour ('laojiao') will no longer be in use after 2013, could mean little or exactly what it implies:

It is possible, of course, to interpret Meng's statement to mean that re-education through labour might soon be abolished, not suspended or perpetuated under another name. Indeed, a decade ago, during a brief period of popular pressure for political-legal reform, some influential Chinese experts flatly predicted that the National People's Congress was about to abolish it. Yet that did not happen, and there was so little agreement about the content of the proposed legislation that no draft was made public. A similar attempt failed in 2010.

Today, the demand for a law to eliminate re-education through labour appears to be stronger.

Either way, we're likely not to know for sure before March when Xi Jinping's administration formally takes power.

Also today comes the news that heads of the re-education through labour system in at least six regions have told state media there still has been no indication of possible forthcoming changes:

The state-run Global Times Tuesday said officials in at least six regions across China have received no information about proposed changes to the so-called "re-education through labor" system.

At Tea Leaf Nation, Yueran Zhang looks at the issue in consideration that Chinese media reports on Meng's statement were quickly deleted and Xinhua released a revised version:

China’s web users, immersed in joy and celebration when the original news came, were left in confusion.

The hurried change of wording may reflect policymakers’ ambivalence towards laojiao. On one hand, public opinion, inflamed by a series of infamous laojiao cases in 2012, consistently calls for an end to the system. On the other, with 60 years of history, the system has become part of China’s institutional structure, such that any reform could incur strong resistance from authorities and interest groups at all levels.

China abroad

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China at home

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People's Daily
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Tea Leaf Nation
-- Why Abolishing China’s Hated Labor Camp System Is Harder Than It Sounds The Xinhua News Agency confirmed the news later that day. But this auspicious tweet was deleted within a few hours, as were relevant news articles on major portals. According to a revised Xinhua News Agency release, the laojiao system was to be “reformed” rather than “ended.”

Voice of America
-- State Media: No Change at China's Forced Labor Camps The state-run Global Times Tuesday said officials in at least six regions across China have received no information about proposed changes to the so-called "re-education through labor" system.