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China's re-education camps

Lawyers object to a system where Chinese citizens can still be sent to prison-like camps without trial.

MOREINFO: Human rights campaigners have long said the "re-education through labour" system should be abolished, saying it targets political activists, ethnic minorities and religious believers and allows for the inhuman and degrading treatment of political prisoners.

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In China, it is known as "labour re-education camp". Citizens can be thrown into the prison-like camp without trial and required to work during their imprisonment.


Chinese government calls the system a humane corrective alternative to jail. But in practice, police use it to hold tens of thousands of people, including protesters, thieves and drug addicts.

Now the system is under attack by dozens of prominent Chinese lawyers and scholars.

Legal expert Zhao Guojun says the existence of the camp impedes China's legal development..

(SOUNDBITE)(MANDARIN WITH ENGLISH TRANSLATION) Zhao Guojun, legal expert, saying:

"No matter what you call it, a regulation or a system, it is illegal and against the law. There is no reason to deprive citizens' freedom without trial."

Petitioners who come to Beijing from around the country are often victims of the system.

Wang Xiuzhi came to the capital to seek help over her husband's unsolved murder. She has been sent to labour re-education camp twice, accused of "disturbing public orders with endless petitioning".

(SOUNDBITE) (MANDARIN WITH ENGLISH TRANSLATION), Wang Xiuzhi, petitioner, saying:

"My three children were so young when they sent me to the camp, and they were crying and looking for the mother because they had no one to look after them. It had been three long years, not three weeks or months."

Life in the camp is very hectic as inmates have to work very hard, making shoes or clothes.

Hu Cuiying was sent to the camp for one year.

(SOUNDBITE) (MANDARIN WITH ENGLISH TRANSLATION) Hu Cuiying, a formal inmate of labour re-education camp, saying:

"All the work had made us very exhausted, and we had to get up very early, about 5 in the morning and worked all day and came back to our room very late at night."

China's national legislature has said it would review the rules underpinning the system, but the discussion has produced only minor amendments to procedures.

Vivi Lin, reporting for Reuters in Beijing.

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Added: Dec-20-2007 
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