Like many aspects of the Chinese legal system, “Re-Education Through Labor” (RTL) is a frequently-used anachronism, leaving outsiders scratching their heads as to how it can still exist. First used in the 1950s under Mao Zedong, RTL is form of punishment and detention completely outside of the criminal justice system. Instead, the RTL system imposes an administrative punishment carried out exclusively by the police – individuals are rarely tried or sentenced by a court before being sent to an RTL camp. Although initially created to quash dissent and rid society of trouble-makers, today it is estimated that the vast majority of RTL prisoners
It’s a curious thing – in a country where the police already yield so much power and the judiciary is subject to the will of the Communist Party, why then is something like RTL even needed? And doesn’t this type of extrajudical detention violate the Chinese Constitution let alone human rights treaties?
You would not be the only one asking these questions. For the past year or more, the Chinese press has been filled with heated discussions and demands from more liberal scholars to get rid of RTL. Even some parts of the Chinese government has called for its abolishment.
But it is still there. Why? And will it ever end?
These are the questions that will be discussed on Thursday in at a roundtable discussion hosted by the Congressional-Executive Commission on China.
Prof. Margaret Lewis, who gave an in-depth interview on China’s new Criminal Procedure Law (“CPL”) to China Law & Policy last September (click here to listen to the interview or read the transcript), will be speaking at this roundtable. She will be joined by Ira Belkin, executive director NYU Law School’s US-Asia Law Institute and who just wrote a fascinating piece on the remnants of Maoist thought holding back China’s rule of law development (read it here).
Joining Prof. Lewis and Mr. Belkin will be joined by two very familiar with RTL – Li Xiaorong and Harry Wu. Both naturalized U.S. citizens, both have felt the heavy hand of China as a result of their activism in their attempts to return to China (Li was denied a Chinese visa when she applied for one to attend her mother’s funeral and Wu was detained in 1995 when he returned to China on a valid visa). Both have been focusing on the RTL system and have been important activists in calling for its abolishment.
The End of Re-Education Through Labor? Recent Developments and Prospects for Reform
Thursday, May 9, 2013
11 AM – 12:30 PM
Dirksen Senate Office Building, Room 562