Chinese prison reforms met with caution

Jan. 8, 2013 at 2:15 PM

NEW YORK, Jan. 8 (UPI) -- Human Rights Watch said while suspending a controversial labor system is a step in the right direction, China should aspire to abolishing it altogether.

China's official Xinhua news agency reported Monday the government would advance reforms in its controversial re-education-through-labor detention system.

"The system allows police to detain people for up to four years without an open trial, leading experts to argue that it contradicts high-level laws, including China's constitution," the report read. "No further information on the reforms has been made available."

Human Rights Watch said the system, known as Re-Education Through Labor, has been in place since the 1950s. The advocacy group described it as a police-run system in which at least 160,000 Chinese are held without trial in a re-education facility.

Sophie Richardson, director of Chinese programs at Human Rights Watch, said ending the practice has been an objective sought by a growing number of Chinese political activists.

"This decision, if it truly put an end to Re-Education Through Labor, would be an indisputable step towards establishing rule of law in China," she said in a statement from New York.

Xinhua reports that a village leader was sentenced recently to two years in a labor camp for spreading "negative information" about the government.

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