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Lawyers calling for reform of laojiao system

By Zhao Yinan (China Daily)

09:57, August 16, 2012

Prominent lawyers are joining those now calling on China to reform its controversial laojiao system, or re-education through labor system, which allows suspects to be sentenced to forced labor without first undergoing a trial.

The system, which has been in operation for more than 50 years, again became the center of a fierce debate after it had been used to detain a mother who was appealing for justice in her daughter’s rape case.

Ten legal professionals sent an open letter to the government on Tuesday warning that the punishment can lead to abuses of power.

"Standing regulations do not require laojiao management committees to release a written verdict to explain how their decisions were made, so it’s difficult to know if a decision was fair," said Li Fangping, an author of the letter and a Beijing lawyer known for his work in protecting the rights of people with HIV.

The letter was sent to the Ministry of Public Security and the Ministry of Justice. In it, the lawyers wrote that the laojiao system is neither transparent nor well-supervised.

Both ministries have subordinate bodies that oversee the system, which can force a person to spend from one to three years in confinement and undergo compulsory labor. If authorities conclude the subject of laojiao has not been sufficiently re-educated, the sentence can be extended another year.

Li, who said the ministries have not sent him a reply to the letter, said all suspects should receive legal assistance when their cases are under review. He also said people who are older than 60 should be exempt from punishment under laojiao.

He said it would be ideal if any measure that could be used to deprive a person of his freedom, such as detention, be subject to judicial review. For now, though, it’s more realistic to try to reform the laojiao system than abolish it.

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wende at 2012-08-1771.251.41.*
To be punished without being convicted is wrong. Trial should start as early as possible.

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