- POSTED: 13 Jan 2014 17:09
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With China officially abolishing its system of putting people in labour camps without trial, the country is looking at ways to improve its community correction system.
SHANGHAI: With China officially abolishing its system of putting people in labour camps without trial, the country is looking at ways to improve its community correction system.
But what this will entail and how it will be implemented raises concerns amongst lawyers and activists who say that without clear definition, the system could be abused.
Mao Hengfeng, 53, has been in and out of labour camps for the past decade.
She said she was beaten during her time in lock-up for her involvement in human rights protests.
Now that the labour camp system has been abolished, the former detainee is demanding compensation from the authorities.
Mao Hengfeng, former labour camp detainee, said: "Since it has been officially abolished, there should be an official letter or action to compensate what we and our families went through mentally and physically. An apology for the pain we've suffered."
Lawyers said compensation from authorities is unlikely, unless former detainees take up the issue in court to prove they have been illegally detained.
In the meantime, nearly all labour camp centres in Shanghai have since been shut after China officially abolished the 56-year old system.
The city said all detainees have also been released.
More than half of former detainees in labour camps are said to be drug offenders and they will be sent to drug rehab centres.
The rest will be allowed to return home and officials said those with minor criminal offences will be dealt with through detention centres or community-based correction facilities.
Community correction has been widely regarded as a replacement for labour camps.
Petty offenders are now expected to be sentenced to surveillance or community service.
But that would require Chinese policy makers to enact new laws clearly defining processes and provisions within the system.
Ma Yongquan, a lawyer, said: "Currently, the system is used on those with probation sentences where they report to a special department and undergo training."
“The current law overseeing community correction is not clearly defined. Unlike other countries where there are sophisticated systems with processes in place, China does not have proper requirements."
Without clear definition, lawyers fear that the corrective system, set up through pilot projects since 2003 in some Chinese cities, may be abused to unfairly prosecute those previously detained under labour camps.
Whether this will be resolved, will depend on what policy makers decide at the upcoming National People's Congress, which is the annual policy meeting in Beijing.