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China considering reforms to labor 're-education' law

[JURIST] The Chinese parliament will consider amending a law allowing the state to send criminal suspects to labor camps without a trial during the National People's Congress (NPC) [official website, in Chinese] scheduled for next week, the China Daily reported Thursday. The system, called "re-education through labor," or "laojiao" [HRW backgrounder], currently allows the police to send those suspected of committing petty crimes, such as theft, prostitution, and illegal drug use, to jail for up to four years. Judicial review is only granted after time has been served at the jail. The changes being considered next week would limit incarceration to less than 18 months and make judicial review more lenient. The camps would be called "correctional centers," instead of "re-education centers."

Since its inception in 1957, laojiao has detained as many as 400,000 criminals. Critics say the government uses the system to detain political and religious activists. The reform being considered next week was initially added to the NPC agenda in 2005 [HRIC brief, PDF], but was postponed for two years due to disagreements about its terms. In 2005, Human Rights in China (HRIC) [advocacy website] said the reform would be a major improvement but still called for the complete eradication of the entire system. Among 20 other items on next week's agenda are proposed amendments to laws involving education, corporate tax, and property rights. BBC News has more. The China Daily has local coverage.

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