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China to reform 1950s labour camp system,

but won’t abolish

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Tang Hui, the mother of a rape victim, was sent to a labour camp last month for contesting the perpetrators’ sentences

China’s system of imprisoning people in labour camps without trial is problematic, and the government is working on reforms, a senior judicial official said on Tuesday.

Jiang Wei, the head of a government committee on judicial reform, said the government has found widespread agreement among legal scholars and lawmakers on the need to reform the labour camp detention system, and an overhaul is being devised based on that consensus.

Jiang’s comments were the latest indication by the government that after much debate it is ready to revise the system – known as “re-education through labour” – that critics say ignores civil rights and is prone to abuse.

Introduced in the 1950s, the system was originally meant for opponents of the communist regime. Today, the system authorises police to jail people for three years without trial; a fourth year can be added for bad behaviour. While often used for drug abusers, prostitutes and others accused of minor offences, it has also been used to silence government critics and punish practitioners of the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement. (Read more here.)

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