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Mr. Pu said it remained unclear whether the system would be replaced with something similar or whether those already sentenced would have their records wiped clean.

Hong Kong-based human rights researcher Joshua Rosenzweig said the system’s elimination likely would increase the stress on China‘s already heavily overburdened court system. While China could eliminate some sentences entirely, the country’s stability-obsessed leaders have offered no indication that they plan to do so, Mr. Rosenzweig said.

“There’s no evidence that they’re changing their mindset on security,” he said.