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BEIJING - The Chinese government will this year push the reform of its re-education through labor system, according to a national political and legal work conference on Monday.
The controversial system allows police to detain people for up to four years without an open trial, leading experts to argue that it contradicts high-level laws, including China's Constitution.
No further information on the reform has been made available.
China's first labor camp act was enacted by the National People's Congress (NPC), the country's top legislature, in 1957, based on a decision submitted by the State Council, China's cabinet.
The labor camp system played a role in consolidating the Party's rule and safeguarding social stability in the early years of the People's Republic of China, which was founded in 1949, said Wang Gongyi, former director of the judicial institute of the Ministry of Justice.
However, problems have emerged surrounding the system, Wang said, adding, "The system contradicts the Constitution, the Legislative Law and the Administrative Penalty Law."
Neither the decision adopted by the NPC in 1957 nor its additional provisions have been sufficient in "regulating" the labor camp system, he said.
Public criticism of the system has mounted following two recent cases.
Last month, a court in Southwest China's Chongqing municipality rejected an appeal from Ren Jianyu, a 25-year-old village official who was sentenced to two years in a re-education through labor camp in September 2011 for spreading "negative information" and inciting the subversion of state power.
Ren was released after serving just over half of his sentence.
Last August, a woman in Central China's Hunan province was sentenced to 18 months in a labor camp after demanding tougher penalties for the seven men convicted of abducting, raping and prostituting her 11-year-old daughter.
Tang Hui, the mother who petitioned courts and local government officials for tougher penalties for her daughter's captors, was released within a week following complaints from academics, state media and the public.
Ma Huaide, vice president of the China University of Political Science and Law, said criticism stems from the abuse of the labor camp system and the lack of a legal basis in randomly expanding its scope to cover unwanted petitioners.
According to the Bureau of Re-education Through Labor under the Ministry of Justice, 160,000 people were held in 350 re-education through labor centers nationwide as of the end of 2008.
The public would welcome the abolishment of the system, Ma said, adding that the NPC should amend laws concerning labor camps in order to maintain the stability and validity of the system after reforms are carried out.
Ma stressed that courts should follow legal procedures to decide whether to restrict a citizen's personal freedom.
Jiang Wei, a senior official in charge of judicial reforms, said last October that the necessity of the reforms had been recognized and a related plan was being formulated.
Related:Hot words: Re-education through labor