Chinese Lawyers for the Protection of Human Rights: Statement on the Abolition of Re-education Through Labour (RTL)

Originally published: November 19, 2013

On 15 November 2013, in its ‘CCP Central Committee Resolution Concerning Some Major Issues in Comprehensively Deepening Reform,’ debated and passed at the 18thCongress Third Plenary Meeting, the CCP announced that it would ‘abolish the Re-education Through Labour System, perfect the laws for punishment and correction of unlawful and criminal acts, and strengthen the community correction system.’ Thus, at the level of the ruling Party, an end has been proclaimed to the RTL system that has been in operation for the past 56 years.

Without any doubt, the RTL system is the product of a particular time and particular circumstances and contrary to rule of law. It is in direct conflict with Article 89 of the PRC’s 1954 Constitution, ‘No citizen may be arrested without approval by a People’s Court or People’s Procuracy;’ therefore, it has never been a legally effective system. The RTL system has played a most ignominious role in a number of historical phases including the anti-rightist movement, the strike-hard campaigns, and the stability preservation campaign. Especially from 1999 onward, in order to suppress a particular group, RTL measures were used even more widely.  The present decision of the ruling Party to proclaim its ‘abolition’ is a result brought about in response to forceful, joint efforts on the part of people in China, of the many victims of the RTL system, of all kinds of human rights defenders and of the international community.

Even though an end has been proclaimed to the RTL system, the Chinese people, in particular those in legal circles, ought to remember it and reflect on the disaster it has brought upon rule of law and human rights and its further negative impact.

We acknowledge and support the decision to ‘abolish Re-education Through Labour,’ but concerning its statement that it would ‘perfect the laws for punishment and correction of unlawful and criminal acts and strengthen the community correction system,’ we maintain a high degree of vigilance and concern. We therefore wish to make the following statements concerning the future of corrective legal systems in the ‘post-RTL era:’

1.  We propose that the National People’s Congress Standing Committee explicitly repeal the ‘Decision Concerning Problems of the Re-education Through Labour System,’ thereby giving a response to the whole nation’s citizens from the supreme State organ;

2. After abolition of RTL, all judicial departments should make active efforts to handle its aftermath and handle requests for state compensation made in accordance with law by former RTL inmates according to the provisions of the law.

3. Given that the Supreme People’s Court has already clearly stated that it will actively cooperate with RTL reform, and explore and improve mechanisms for the quick adjudication and decision of minor criminal cases, we believe that there is no longer a need for new legislation concerning the punishment and correction of illegal and criminal behaviour;

4. If there is insistence on enacting legislation on ‘perfecting the laws for punishment and correction of illegal and criminal conduct,’ then it must fully respect the constitutional principles guiding the respect for and protection of basic human rights, strictly limit the potential targets of such legislation and ensure that strict legal procedures are followed throughout, so as to prevent an arbitrary widening of targeted persons; and there ought to be safeguards ensuring that targeted persons can obtain timely judicial remedies.

5. As long as Legislation on ‘perfecting the laws for punishment and correction of illegal and criminal conduct’ involves the deprivation of liberty of the person, we advise as a precautionary measure that this legislation ought to be debated and enacted by the National People’s Congress and not by its Standing Committee. Such legislation ought to be made through open circulation for comments and discussion, a public hearing and with participation from all segments of society, so as to satisfy the requirements of the right to know and to participate.

6. After RTL has been abolished, detention places used for the illegal deprivation of liberty that have all along been operated outside the legal system, such as so-called ‘legal education bases,’ ‘legal education centres’, ‘training and warning places,’ all types of ‘black jails’ and other covert RTL facilities where citizens in fact become victims of crimes of false imprisonment must be immediately shut down and removed, and the legal responsibility of any person in authority for such illegal and criminal acts must be pursued.
Signatories (84 lawyers):

Jiang Tianyong (江天勇), Beijing; Wang Cheng (王成), Zhejiang; Li Heping (李和平), Beijing; Tang Jitian (唐吉田), Beijing; Liu Weiguo (刘卫国), Shandong; Li Fangping (李方平), Beijing; Tang Tianhao (唐天昊), Chongqing; Zhang Lei (张磊), Beijing; Pang Kun (庞琨), Guangdong; Wang Quanping (王全平), Guangdong; Ge Yongxi (葛永喜), Guangdong; Chen Jiangang (陈建刚), Beijing; Wu Kuiming (吴魁明), Guangdong; Sui Muqing (隋牧青), Guangdong; Chen Keyun (陈科云), Guangdong; Liu Zhengqing (刘正清), Guangdong; Liu Shihui (刘士辉), Guangdong; Wu Zhenqi (吴镇琦), Guangdong;  Liang Xiaojun (梁小军), Beijing; Zhang Keke, Hubei (张科科); Lan Zhixue  (兰志学), Beijing; Xie Yang (谢阳), Hunan; Chang Boyang (常伯阳), Henan; Fu Yonggang (付永刚), Shandong; Xu Chan (徐灿), Beijing; Xu Zhong (徐忠), Shandong;  Ge Wenxiu (葛文秀), Guangdong; Chen Wuquan (陈武权), Beijing; Teng Biao (滕彪), Beijing; Hu Guiyun (胡贵云), Beijing; Zhao Yonglin (赵永林), Shandong; Zhang Chuanli (张传利), Beijing; Liu Wei (刘巍), Beijing; Tang Jingling (唐荆陵), Guangdong; Liu Jinbin (刘金滨), Shandong; Zhou Lixin (周立新), Beijing; Chen Jinxue (陈进学), Guangdong; Fan Biaowen (范标文), Guangdong; Long Yuanfu (龙元富), Guangdong; Liang Xiubo (梁秀波), Henan;  Li Weida (李威达), Hebei;  Yu Quan (于全), Sichuan; Li Wei (刘 伟), Henan; Wang Zongyue (王宗跃), Guizhou;  Li Xiongbing (黎雄兵), Beijing; Xiao Fanghua (肖芳华), Guangdong; Li Jinxing (李金星), Shandong; Shi Yongsheng (石永胜), Hebei; Li Guobei (李国蓓), Beijing; Zhang Guo (张国), Hunan; Wang Liao (汪廖), Zhejiang; Jiang Yuanmin (蒋援民), Guangdong; Guo Lianhui (郭莲辉), Jiangxi; Guo Xinrong (郭新嵘), Beijing; Li Changming (李长明), Beijing; Zheng Enchong (郑恩宠 ), Shanghai; Ran Tong (冉彤), Sichuan; Zhu Yingming (朱应明), Jiangsu; Li Dawei (李大伟), Gansu; Li Changqing (李长青), Beijing; Deng Linhua (邓林华 ); Yang Xuan (杨璇); Tian Yuan (田园), Hunan; Xie Yanyi (谢燕益), Beijing; Li Ruyu (李如玉), Jiangsu; Lin Qilei (蔺其磊), Beijing; Huang Jian (黄建), Sichuan; Liu Sixin (刘四新), Beijing; Liu Lianhe (刘连贺), Tianjin; Shu Xiangxin (舒向新), Shandong; Wang Hui (王辉), Henan; Gan Weidong (干卫东), Xinjiang; Zhang Weiyu (张维玉), Shandong; Wen Yu (闻宇), Guangdong; Huang Yizhi (黄溢智), Beijing; Yan Wangli (燕旺利), Hunan; Li Subin (李苏滨), Beijing; Feng Yanqiang (冯延强), Shandong; Wang Bijun (王必君), Guangdong; Wei Liangyue (韦良月), Heilongjiang; Liang Lanxin (梁澜罄), Hebei; Luo Lizhi (罗立志), Hunan; Chen Yixuan (陈以轩), Hunan; Zhang Guo (张国 ), Hunan; Wang Xianping (王先平), Xinjiang; Chu Yukun (储玉坤), Beijing.

Signatures are in the process of being collected. We invite Chinese lawyers to join Chinese Lawyers for the Protection of Human Rights and to add their signature to this statement.

Human Rights Lawyers Group Contact Persons :

Wang Cheng (王成), tel. 13616501896
Tang Jitian (唐吉田), tel. 13161302848
Jiang Tianyong, (江天勇), tel. 13001010856

A simulation of roll call outside Beijing RTL Center. When your name is called, you must squat as illustrated. Otherwise, you must stand bowing down your head. Photo provided by Ye Jinghuan (野靖环).

A reenactment of roll call in a Beijing RTL Center. When your name is called, you must squat as illustrated. Otherwise, you must stand bowing down your head. Photo provided by Ye Jinghuan (野靖环).

Related reading:

Vaginas in Wrath: Face to Face with Masanjia Woman’s Labor Camp, by Ai Xiaoming

To Remember Is to Resist, by Teng Biao

Chinese original

(Not a translation.)

A simulation of torture in a black jail. Photo provided by Wang Jianfen (王建芬).

A reenactment of torture in a black jail in Wuxi, Jiangsu. Photo provided by Wang Jianfen (王建芬).

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