Better correctional system
Updated: 2013-11-18 07:01
The abolition of the reeducation-through-labor system, which was written into the decisions of the Third Plenary Session of the 18th Communist Party of China Central Committee, is a step forward in building the rule of law. The decisions document says that efforts will be made to improve the laws for the punishment and rehabilitation of offenders. And it also says that the community correction system will be optimized.
It is not that the reeducation-through-labor system is too bad to be tolerated. Instead, it is because the rule of law requires the delivery of justice through proper procedure.
There is no denying that the system of reeducation through labor has played its role in the punishment and rehabilitation of those who have committed offences that were not serious enough to warrant a prison term. And there is always the need for a correctional system for the punishment and rehabilitation of people whose offences are not serious enough to be incarcerated.
However, the lack of a national-level law to regulate the system made it vulnerable to abuses at the local level, which on occasion led to the violation of people's rights and thus invited criticism of both its purpose and implementation.
The need to regulate the system with a national law, so that the proper legal procedure is followed to prevent abuses, has become both evident and urgent.
But the abolition of the reeducation-through-labor system is just the beginning, as much needs to be done before a law can be made for the establishment of a new correctional system.
In the new system, specific stipulations must be made to clarify what kind of offences should be subject to correctional measures and strict legal procedures must be put in place to prevent the system from being used by some power abusers to crack down on opponents.
Behind the abolition of the system is the will of the top authorities to gradually place within legal limits the power of local leaders. The real rule of law will never be attained unless power is locked into the cage of laws.
Yet, power will not willingly stay in the cage of laws. There can be no denying the possibility of some power abusers taking advantage of any loopholes in the new system.
Even so, the abolition of this administrative penalty will greatly narrow the room for power abuse in this respect.
(China Daily 11/18/2013 page8)