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China: Campaign to End the Unconstitutional Re-education Through Labour System

Written by Oiwan Lam On 20 October 2012 @ 1:54 am | 2 Comments

In China, Chinese, East Asia, English, Governance, Law, Politics, Weblog

The injustice faced by 25-year-old Ren Jianyu, a village official in Pang Shui county, Chongqing province, who was sentenced to two years labour education for blogging has brought the Re-education Through Labour System into public spotlight. Currently, in October 2012, there are more than 60 thousand people detained in labour education camps all over the country and opinion leaders are calling for an end to the unconstitutional system.

2 years re-education labour for blogging

Ren Jianyu, a graduate from Chongqing Wenli College started his career as a village teacher in Pang Shui County in 2008. Later, in 2009, he decided to apply for the position of village official and began to blog about the frustration he faced in handling village affairs under the pseudo name Xiao Ben. In 2011, he started commenting on current issues on social media platforms and some of his micro-blogs such as “this society is so full of evil people while good people have bad luck. The mission of our generation is to eradicate the evil system and protect goodness”, have become evidence of “state sedition”. (via report from infzm.com [zh])

[1]

Ren Jianyu's photo. Public domain photo.

On 18 of August 2011, he was arrested by Pang Shui Police. Even though the police reported that “there was no evidence that Ren had committed state sedition” and the People's Procuratorate of Chongqing city decided to drop the charge, the Chongqing Re-education Through Labour Committee decided to sentence Ren to two years labour re-education on 23 of September 2011. The so-called evidence of “state sedition” presented by the committee was Ren's micro-blog comments.

Ren tried to file for appeal but no lawyers dared to take up the case until June 2012. Three months after former Chongqing CCP leader Bo Xilai stepped down, Beijing lawyer Pu Zhiqiang approached Ren and took up the appeal case.

As the details of the case were exposed, major CCP mouthpieces, including Global Times and the People's Daily also published commentaries to criticize the Chongqing Committee's decision and call for more freedom of expression.

More than 60 thousands still detained in Re-education Labour Camps

Ren is only one of the 60 thousand plus victims of the Re-education through Labour System who are punished directly by the police authorities rather than through the judicial system. According to the report on ND Daily [zh], currently more than 60 thousand people are detained in Re-education labour camps all over the country and the Central Legal Reform Committee admitted in October 9, 2012 that the System has some procedure defects and should be reformed. While some are pondering whether or not the progressive gesture is a by-product of the power struggle before the up-coming 18th CCP Congress, online opinion leaders, in particular those from the legal field, are pushing for an end to the system rather than reform. 21ccom.net posted an opinion piece [zh] written by Feng Yuxiong:

[2]

Protest against the Re-education Through Labour System. Photo from Human Rights Campaign in China.

被劳教的都是些什么人,那些人到底危害了谁的利益?根据学者研究,劳教制度发挥作用的地方主要是这么几种:处罚那些多次违法且屡教不改者,比如多次盗窃,寻衅滋事的人;关押上访维权的人;出于维稳需要,处罚不听话者,如在房屋拆迁、黄金开采、户口管理、出租车管理等方面违反了地方政府的规定的那些人;刑事案件中因证据不足、案情复杂等原因难以移送起诉的人;为创收做贡献,对卖淫、嫖娼、聚赌人员以劳教相威胁,收取高额罚款。

  除了第一类惯偷惯犯跟社会安全有关外,其它几类均属于为维护某些既得利益集团和政府部门利益而侵害人权的行为。此时的公安机关,是某些人的家丁,而不是人民利益的维护者。劳教制度之所以无法改革,就是因为公安机关的强力阻挠。

Who are the people sentenced to re-education through labour? Whose interests had they harmed? According to existing research, the re-education through labour system punishes those people who: refuse to correct their wrongs, such as stealing, causing public disorder; visit petitioners; those who disobey the local government in demolition, mining, household registration, taxi management etc.; suspects of criminal cases who have not been prosecuted because of lack of evidence; those who are engaged in gambling and prostituting activities.

Apart from stealing, which involves public interest, all the above mentioned prosecutions are in violation of human rights as the sole objective is to protect the existing interest bloc and government sectors. The police authorities become some people's servants rather than defenders of people's interests. The reason why the central government has failed to reform the re-education through labour system is because of the strong opposition from police authorities.

劳教作为脱胎于威权时代的一种社会控制方法,与法治理念格格不入。如果我们仅仅因为担心社会秩序,而容忍一个明显违法的不正当制度长期存在,那只能说明,我们的执政者对法治根本没有任何信心,所谓一切政党、国家机关和社会团体的活动必须置于宪法法律之下根本就是一句空话。如果当政者尚且玩弄法律,怎么能要求人民信赖法律、遵守法律?

  实际上,目前中国的劳教制度无论是从被劳教人数还是从业人员规模看,都处于强化阶段,这是正在发生的事实,公众舆论热火朝天地讨论改革还是废除,没有影响这一进程。由于各种改革方案始终不能被各方接受,改革就只能一再搁浅,于是劳教制度就心安理得地存在并强化着,这实在是莫大的悲剧。没有最佳改革方案就只能维持现状,这种思路本身就是有问题的,既然劳教制度违法、违宪,是彻彻底底的恶劣制度,我们就必须立刻无条件废止,至于以后是建立违法行为矫治制度,还是保安处分制度,还是别的什么制度,都要留待废除之后再做讨论。

Re-education through labour is a social control mechanism developed from the authoritarian era. It is at odds with the idea of “rule of law”. If we allow such an illegal system to exist because of social stability concerns, it indicates that those in power show a lack of confidence in the law. The over-arching constitution becomes a piece of paper. If the ruling elites are manipulating the law, how can people live by the law?

In fact, if we take a closer look at the number of detainees and staff, the Re-education through Labour System has been expanding even though the public are debating whether to reform the system or to abolish it. In the end, the debate will lead to the maintenance of the status quo. If the Re-education Through Labour system is against the law and constitution, it is an evil system and we have to abolish it with no other conditions. If we have to introduce other systems to fill in the gap, that should be another discussion.

An end to the unconstitutional system

Feng's opinion has a lot of echoes in social media. Below are my picks of the discussion [zh]:

hainiesi:两年前,李庄还是名被认为“臭名召著”的黑律师,任建宇也是被认为是个“愤青”。两年后,李庄和任建宇成了结束中国社会左转和废除中国劳教制度的关键人物,中国这社会,就是有那么多神奇的事说不清。我们对未来应该乐观,废除劳教制度,放宽新闻审查,去毛化毛主席入土为安,如此中国社会才有新纪元。

Li Zhuang [3] was labelled as “notorious black lawyer” and Ren Jianyu as “Angry Youth”. Two years later, they become the key person to abolish the Re-education through Labour System. The Chinese society is so full of strange happenings. We should be optimistic for the future. Abolish the Re-education Through Labour System, grant freedom to press and let Mao Tsedong died in peace. Then we can enter a new era.

斯伟江:劳教手段被公安有时滥用,恐怕是不争的事实,在重庆,无非是极端化了,譬如一坨屎案或任建宇案,但,更多的是,打民警一耳光被劳教,阻扰执法被劳教等,本身行为人有过错,但罪不至被限制人身自由一年的例子,这种才最普遍。在法制最发达地区上海都如此,我想其他地方绝对不会比上海状况好。

斯伟江: It is an inarguable fact that the police authorities have abused their power through the Re-education through Labour system. In Chongqing, cases like Ren Jianyu are very extreme. However, a majority of the cases involve very minor offenses such as obstructing police officers’ duty. The offenders do something wrong, but one year restriction of freedom is too much. Such cases are very common in Shanghai, which has better respect of the legal system. Other areas would be far worse than Shanghai.

何兵:【劳教】我导师北大姜明安教授说,劳教过大于功,但确实能教育人。我开玩笑说,您满口湖南话,这么多北京人,这么多年,也没把您教育过来。如把您放回湖南,一堆湖南人在一起,有指望吗?劳教场所“坏人”成堆?所谓教育,全是骗人。劳教培养着仇恨和复仇,培育着政权的掘墓人。

何兵: My teacher, Jiang Mingan from Beida said that Re-education through Labour does more wrong than good, but it is effective to “re-educate” people. I jokingly said that, listen to your Hunan accent, living among with Beijing people for so many years, you still could not correct your accent. If I put you back together with Hunan people, will that give you a better chance for correction? There are so many “bad people” in Re-education camp, how can you get education? It is a place for nourishing resentment and hatred – grave diggers for the rulers.

租售情报-上海别墅版:首先想被劳教的都是什么人!大部分都是进京告状的!为何要进京告状,因为地方腐败,官官相护!几千年了,还是如此,你说中国还有希望吗?

租售情报-上海别墅版 Most of the re-educated are petitioners. Why do they petition? Because of local corruption. The officials are covering for each other. It has been like this for thousands of years. Do we still have hope?

肖文军律师:一直强调要废除“劳教”,但其实法律上劳教早已被废除,不合法,但这样被废除不合法制度却保持旺盛生命力,每一起劳教都是公权力严重违法犯罪的行为,但却无人被追究,这只能见证中国法律的苍白无力。废除劳教根本不需要什么程序,什么法律,认可劳教合理存在,就是对法律否定,劳教根本不是废除问题

肖文军律师: We have been advocating for the abolition of “Re-education Through Labour”. Actually, it has been abolished as the system is illegal. It does not have legal grounds. But such an illegal system continues to survive and grow. Each prosecution is against the law but no one is taking the responsibility. It reflects how weak our legal system is. We don't need a procedure or another set of laws to abolish the system. Its existence is a denial of the rule of law. It is not an issue of abolition.


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URL to article: http://globalvoicesonline.org/2012/10/20/china-campaign-to-end-the-unconstitutional-re-education-through-labour-system/

URLs in this post:

[1] Image: http://www.bannedbook.org/bnews/zh-tw/cnnews/20121011/67807.html

[2] Image: http://rightscampaign.blogspot.hk/2012/09/blog-post_6260.html

[3] Li Zhuang: http://wrongfulconvictionsblog.org/2012/03/31/li-zhuang-chinese-defense-lawyer-who-was-found-guilty-of-suborning-perjury/

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