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Petition calls for end to labor re-education

By Yan Shuang (Global Times)

13:16, September 05, 2012

More than 7,000 people have signed an appeal calling for the abolishment of the country's re-education through labor system, which drew public ire after a recent series of controversial cases.

Wang Cheng, a Hangzhou-based lawyer who initiated the campaign on August 10, said the appeal will be submitted to China's top legislature once 10,000 people have signed, either through Weibo, e-mail or mobile phone.

The re-education through labor system violates China's Constitution and has led to serious injustices including instances of abuse of power by police officers and infringements upon human rights, Wang told the Global Times.

"The system doesn't fit in with social development," said Wang, adding that some local officials have exploited the practice to suppress petitioners and residents who lodged complaints, which has led to societal tensions and the erosion of government credibility.

By posting proposals on Weibo, Wang had rallied 7,100 signatures by late Tuesday, including those of renowned writer Zheng Yuanjie, former real estate boss Ren Zhiqiang and IT celebrity Li Kaifu, as well as people who had been through re-education and their families.

However, it drew other kinds of attention as well. Wang said his Weibo account was inaccessible for a while when he first posted the proposal in August, and local police in Hangzhou paid him a visit. "They said they agree with me on the issue to some extent, but would prefer me doing this through other more 'rational' ways," Wang said.

Established in 1957, the re-education through labor policy was designed to "maintain social security, rehabilitate offenders and act as a crime deterrent." It is used as an administrative punishment in cases that are not considered as serious as a crime, or in relation to minor offenses that do not require a criminal charge. The punishment ranges from one to four years.

The policy has remained controversial for decades and became the center of public debate recently after the case of Tang Hui, the mother of an underaged rape victim, who was sent to a re-education through labor center in Hunan Province in August for "disturbing social order." Tang had protested in front of the local government of Yongzhou and accused the local police of helping the rapists who forced her daughter into prostitution.

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