- 40 Australian adults, children found in ‘one of the worst accounts of incest ever made public’
- Venezuela’s Maduro calls on student ‘price vigilantes’ to hit the streets, report businesses
- Atheists smug as Hindus join Satanists to demand display at Oklahoma Statehouse
- Bow before Valkyrie, NASA’s ‘superhero robot’ entry in DARPA challenge
- 10-year-old Pennsylvania boy suspended for pretend bow-and-arrow shooting
- Tea partiers turn on Capitol Hill budget deal
- Budget deal to get quick vote in the House
- Comma on!: Twitter erupts over Obama-Castro ‘marriage’
- Sebelius calls for review of Obamacare rollout woes
- American dream dying, but many see free market as solution: Poll
Official: China to end labor camp sentences
BEIJING (AP) — China will stop handing down labor camp sentences this year under a system that allowed police to lock up government critics and other defendants for up to four years without trial, the country’s top law enforcement official said Monday.
The move would be a key step in reforming China‘s judicial system, though details remained unclear, including what would become of existing “re-education through labor” camps and their current inmates and whether this presages a new system involving court hearings before defendants can be sent to such facilities.
The comments by Communist Party Politics and Law Committee head Meng Jianzhu were not officially announced but were reported by Chen Dongsheng, a bureau chief for the Legal Daily, the official newspaper of China‘sJustice Ministry.
Mr. Chen said he heard Mr. Meng make the pledge at a conference carried on closed-circuit television. China‘s supreme court and other government offices declined to comment, although the respected independent magazine Caixin said it had confirmed Chen’s report with an unidentified conference participant.
The labor camp system originally was used to detain accused counterrevolutionaries or other critics of the Communist government but was later expanded to punish prostitutes, drug addicts and other minor criminals. Authorities sentenced large numbers of Falun Gong adherents to the camps after banning the meditation movement as an evil cult in the late 1990s.
The labor camp system has been widely condemned by lawyers and human rights activists as outdated and open to abuse, especially in locking away those who criticize officials or government policies.
Those included minor officials and private citizens who attacked once high-flying politician Bo Xilai over his brutal crackdown on organized crime and promotion of Mao Zedong-era Communist culture, some of whom were released following his spectacular fall from power last year in the country’s biggest political scandal in years.
Ren Jianyu, a local official sentenced to two years in a labor camp after criticizing Mr. Bo’s Maoist revival on the Internet, said ending such sentences would benefit both legal reform and freedom of speech.
“I’m really happy to hear that the system will be gone. It’s major progress, though the price we paid is rather heavy,” said Mr. Ren, who was released last year without explanation after serving 15 months.
China has 310 labor camps holding about 310,000 prisoners and employing 100,000 staff, according to state broadcaster CCTV.
Ending labor camp sentences appears to be an indication of new Communist leader Xi Jinping’s desire to carry out moderate political and legal reforms that had largely stalled under predecessor Hu Jintao. Since taking power in November, Mr. Xi has called for further crackdowns on corruption and government extravagance and the strengthening of the legal system.
Pu Zhiqiang, a lawyer who frequently has represented government critics, said the labor camp system’s legality long had been in question and its elimination remained a long-term goal of legal activists.
“This announcement is a very good thing, but we’d still like to hear them say that they’re getting rid of re-education through labor entirely,” Mr. Pu said.
By Donald Lambro
Growth spikes are little more than trend-free anomalies
- Teen thugs in DC run wild -- even while wearing GPS ankle bracelets
- Leon Panetta named as source of 'Zero Dark Thirty' scriptwriters information
- New budget accord saves $23 billion -- after $65 billion spending spree
- Obama takes 'selfie' at Mandela's funeral service
- CARSON: Why did the founders give us the Second Amendment?
- VEGAS RULES: Harry Reid pushed feds to change ruling for casino's big-money foreigners
- Tea partiers turn on Capitol Hill budget deal
- Gov't Motors: Obama fudges math on auto bailout, $10.5 billion loss for taxpayers
- More than a quarter million sign up for Obamacare in November
- Chinese man fed up with his girlfriend's shopping jumps to his death
Independent voices from the The Washington Times Communities
An objective, analysis-based perspective of D.C. sports as seen through the eyes of lifelong D.C. sports enthusiast, John Heibel.
All of the world’s problems, solved on your back porch
Human interest stories to feed interest, satisfy curiosity and see outside the box.
Politics, economics, and business from a real world perspective.
White House pets gone wild!
Let it snow