III. Reform of Criminals
through Labour

China has criminals do productive and socially beneficial work, which is the main meaning of combining punishment and reform. China's experience in reforming criminals has shown that this measure is very effective.

It is especially important for criminals to engage in productive and socially beneficial labour. Firstly, productive labour helps criminals realize that social wealth does not come easily, fosters a love for work and helps them become accustomed to it, instills the idea of "no work, no food" in their minds, and helps them overcome bad habits such as sloth, aversion to work and hedonism. At the same time, working gives them a sense of social responsibility and law abiding spirit in addition to improving self-discipline. Secondly, having prisoners engage in an appropriate form of labour enables them to stay physically fit, which helps to ward off depression, listlessness, demoralization and even thoughts of escape, suicide or further criminal activity, ideas which spring from the monotony of prison life over many years. Thirdly, productive labour enables prisoners to acquire productive skills and knowledge which make it possible for them to earn a living when they have served their sentence. This makes it unlikely they will return to crime because of lingering bad habits or lack of job skills. Fourthly, having the prisoners engage in labour in a situation and format similar to those of normal society helps to instill the habit of working and cooperating with others in an organization in society. This enables them to adapt to a normal social environment as quickly as possible when they are returned to society.

Using forced labour as a means to reform criminals is a common practice in many countries of the world. Explicit conditions have been stipulated in the laws of many countries and in UN documents concerning forcing criminals to engage in labour.

China's law stipulates that all criminals who are able to work must participate in work activities. Those who are found to be unable to work by a doctor's examination or those who are old, infirm, disabled or otherwise unfit for work do not participate. According to statistics, about 10% of the prison population did not participate in labour in 1990. The Chinese Government opposes the use of labour as a means of punishing criminals, as well as the use of heavy labour as a means to maltreat prisoners.

China faithfully practices the use of forced labour as a reform method rather than as a method for punishment.

--- China has formulated a series of laws and decrees relating to putting prisoners to work in productive labour. Prisoners enjoy the same benefits as employees of state enterprises in terms of work hours, holidays, supply of food and edible oil, and occupational safety and health care.

--- Education is used to gradually change the prisoners' attitudes to the work activity from forced labour to conscientious work. When they first arrive, some criminals are not in the habit of working, or look down on work, so at first they must be more or less forced to engage in productive labour. The reform-through-labour institutions of China do not resort to crude methods of force to solve this problem. Instead, prisoners are subjected to continual education to teach them the importance of taking part in productive labour and to help them realize that an aversion to labour is shameful. From the beginning, they are given work which is within their ability to reform so that they gradually come to understand the meaning of work and develop an interest in it so that they eventually come to participate in reform through labour of their own free will. Take the last Emperor of China's Qing Dynasty Aisin Giorro Pu Yi as an example. When he first arrived at a Chinese prison, he was attended by people who put on and took off his clothes, including his socks, for him. Eventually, he began to willingly participate in work activities thanks to the patient education and careful arrangements found in Chinese prisons. He said he believed that the work activities played a major role in changing him from a criminal into a person who was beneficial to society.

--- In Chinese reform-through-labour institutions, a prisoner who is unable to work is exempted from productive labour. Prison staff are assigned to determine the prisoner's state of health so work can be found which the prisoner is physically able to do. Female criminals perform work which is in conformity with women's physical and psychological traits. Juvenile deliquents only work to learn skills, following a half-work and half-study schedule.

--- Civilized and safe working conditions are provided for prisoners engaging in reform through labour. In the area of occupational safety and health care, every reform-through-labour institution has a set of specific safety regulations and necessary safety measures plus special safety personnel who constantly monitor safety conditions and conduct inspections. There are explicit regulations relating to conditions in prisons and reform-through-labour institutions in terms of safety, hygiene, ventilation, light, etc.. Reform-through-labour institutions in China are judged in part by how well they conform to these regulations.

--- China insists that criminals be allowed to study and improve their production skills to make the prisoner look at the world in a new light and enable the reformed criminal to contribute to the modernization programme. One major way of judging a reform-through-labour institution is how successful it is in helping criminals learn and improve their production skills. This has played an important role in enabling reformed criminals to quickly become employed, keep their minds on their work and avoid going back.

--- Chinese reform-through-labour institutions encourage criminals who have special skills to contribute to society. In China, there have been a considerable number of criminals who became skilled workers or even key personnel in production through the assistance of administrative departments. Some have even become inventors and artists. One criminal named Mao in the First Prison of Hebei Province has made three major inventions and holds Chinese patent rights for them, winning public approval and a reduced sentence for himself in accordance with the law.

Over the past forty years, China has gained a great deal of valuable experience in reforming criminals through labour. Many prisoners have rid themselves of their bad habits through reform through labour, formulated a better outlook on life and learned to respect other people and society, and now maintain self-discipline and abide by the law. Many have had their sentence reduced or been released on parole for outstanding behaviour during the reform-through-labour process. Some who have returned to society after serving their sentence have become key production personnel, engineers, factory directors and managers. A few have even become "advanced producers" or "model workers". China's success in reforming criminals through labour has been justly praised by respected personages of great vision in the international community.

In China, products are produced by prison labour mainly to meet needs occurring within the reform-through-labour system. Only a small proportion of such products enter the domestic market through normal channels. Profit from reform- through-labour work activities is mainly used for improving the prisoners' living conditions, upgrading their common living areas and facilities and maintaining production. This has played a positive role in reducing the burden on the state and the people. There are two kinds of production in the reform- through-labour system: one is that carried out by the prisoners themselves; and the other is that carried out by the workers and their dependents in the reform-through-labour institutions. These two kinds of production are totally different in nature and should not be confused. According to statistics, the annual output value of prison labour in the reform-through-labour system for 1990 was only 2.5 billion yuan, which is about 0.08 per cent of the nation's total industrial and agricultural production output value for the year. In recent years some people in the West have been claiming that "China's prison products constitute the pillar of the Chinese national economy." Nothing could be further from the truth.

China prohibits export of products made with prison labour. No competent Chinese authorities has ever given any reform-through-labour unit the right to export commodities. On October 10, 1991, the Ministry of Economic Relations and Foreign Trade and the Ministry of Justice jointly issued a circular entitled "Reissue of Regulations Prohibiting the Export of Products Made in a Reform-through-labour Programme". The Chinese Government is very strict on this point and any violations of these regulations are dealt with severely.