New forms of extrajudicial detention emerge to replace China’s labour camps

'Reprimand centres' established in Henan province to replace re-education through labour camps, commonly used to detain petitioners with grievances against officials

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 13 February, 2014, 12:46pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 13 February, 2014, 4:54pm

China’s notorious ‘re-education through labour camps’ have been replaced by “reprimand centres”, a new form of extrajudicial detention, in the central province of Henan.

Re-education through labour camps, which were frequently used to detain petitioners with grievances against officals, were abolished by the National People's Congress Standing Committee in December.

The new reprimand centres are responsible for “conducting 24-hour non-stop reprimand, warning and education” to “abnormal petitioners”, the Beijing News reported. They existed in cities including Nanyang, Zhumadian, Dengzhou, and Xinxiang, it said.

A recent microblog post by a Nanyang citizen showed a photograph of such a centre at the city’s Wolong district, saying his 70-year-old mother was detained there after petitioning outside of the city.

The centre aroused much attention among internet users and was dubbed a “new labour camp”.

The Zhumadian city government has called the reprimand centre in Zhengyang, a county under its jurisdiction, “a new result of the active exploration of how to legally handle abnormal petitioners together” in a news item on its website in December.

The county appropriated over 300,000 yuan to set up the centre under the county police bureau, it said.

Professional staff and managers in workplaces should to talk to petitioners, the website article said, and signatures should be added to a file that would be kept after such discussions.

The Beijing News article also quoted another government website post as saying that Xinye county, Nanyang, allocated over 70,000 yuan to establish a similar centre at the end of 2010.

Part of its staff at the centre were veterans transferred from the county police bureau and other related departments, it said.

The centre has nine offices, two reprimand rooms, an accompanying room for relatives of the detained, a kitchen, a medical service centre, a safety monitoring room, and archives.

Such centres are not the only new form of detention to replace the abolished 56-year-old labour camp system, which allowed authorities to sentence people for up to four years forced labour without trial.

According to a report by the rights group Amnesty International in December, other forms included “black jails”, drug rehabilitation facilities, and “brainwashing centres”, or the reprimand centres mentioned above.

The revelation of these new forms sparked an outcry in the online community, where they were called “labour camps reviving in a new guise”.

“This is actually worse than labour camps, because detention at labour camps at least needed approval by police and had a set period. But one can be detained in this [reprimand centre] by the bureau … and it could be permanently,” one internet user commented.