Sunday, March 3, 2013

China’s labor camps come under scrutiny - The Washington Post

China’s labor camps come under scrutiny - The Washington Post

After decades of stonewalling, Chinese officials have begun to address public concern over the camps, slowing their use and signaling that a parliamentary meeting of China’s top leaders in Beijing this week could bring broader changes.

That prospect has thrust the camps forward as an early litmus test for how serious China’s new top leaders are in vowing to reform broken and corrupt parts of the government. But it has also invited skepticism from human rights activists and legal scholars who have long regarded China’s legal system as a source of injustice.

The obstacles to reform have also become increasingly apparent in recent weeks as government officials have backtracked from the initial idea of abolishing the labor camps entirely, even though they operate outside the legal system.

A big hurdle, legal experts say, is that authorities have grown dependent on labor camps as an expedient way to silence critics. Police can send people to the camps for up to four years with no judicial process. Citizens have been punished for crimes as trivial as writing an unflattering blog post about a local official.

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