American University Washington College of Law published the online version of the Laogai Research Foundation's commentary on the abolition of China's reeducation-through-labor system, which the journal published in print in December 2013. Titled "A Jail by Any Other Name," the article puts forth the argument that although the abolition of this relic of Maoist repression is a welcome development, such reform does not address the more fundamental injustice of officially sanctioned arbitrary detention that underpins the laojiao system. Rather than substantially curbing abuses of police power, eliminating reeducation-through-labor will likely result in increased reliance on alternative methods of arbitrary detention. At root, genuine rule-of-law reform would require enhancing the authority of the judiciary relative to public security forces in China’s system of law enforcement. This power transfer must also coincide with the establishment of a judicial system committed to upholding substantive rule-of-law principles. Such restructuring, however, would require overcoming immensely powerful political resistance and altering fundamental guiding principles of China’s criminal justice system. Anticipated reforms that fall short of these necessary adjustments represent nothing more than nominal change: the perpetuation of the same jail under a different name.
02/01/2014 - 15:00