Guangzhou plans to empty its hard-labour camps by year's end, state media reported yesterday, the latest locality to phase out the notorious punishment.
Rights advocates have long complained that the "re-education through labour", or laojiao, system which lets police send suspects to work camps for up to four years without trial, is widely abused to silence dissidents, petitioners and other perceived troublemakers.
In March, newly installed Premier Li Keqiang promised nationwide reforms to the system this year, but concrete steps have yet to be announced. In the meantime, some cities or provinces have been moving away from the punishment.
"All [100 or so] detainees in Guangzhou labour camps will have completed their sentences and be released by the end of the year," the China Daily reported, citing a senior judge in the city. Guangdong province stopped taking new re-education through labour cases in March, it said.
In February, Yunnan said it would no longer send people to labour camps for three types of political offences.
Four cities designated as testing grounds have replaced the system with an "illegal behaviour rectification through education" programme, domestic media said at the time.
The forced labour system was established under Mao Zedong in the 1950s as a way to contain "class enemies". A 2009 UN report estimated that 190,000 mainlanders were locked up labour camps.
Calls to scrap the system grew last year after the media exposed the plight of Ren Jianyu , a former official who spent 15 months in a Chongqing labour camp for reposting criticisms of the government on his microblog.