Forced labor outlawed for people in detention

Updated: 2012-03-02 07:59

By Zhao Yinan and Cao Yin (China Daily)

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BEIJING - A regulation outlawing forced labor and protecting the rights of the detained was published by the State Council on Thursday.

The regulation forbids detention houses from forcing those in custody to work, "a major step forward" compared with the current guideline on detention house management, experts said.

The existing regulation allows the detained to do "proper work" in custody, but said the revenues have to be used to subsidize accommodation and buy daily necessities for the detained.

The regulation, which will take effect in April, was drafted to replace the current one issued in 1990.

Wang Hongjun, director of the public order research office at the Chinese People's Public Security University, said the new regulation has attached great importance to rights of people under detention.

"Previously, people faced a harsh situation after being held in custody, and their rights could barely be protected by the old rules," Wang said.

Tang Hongxin, a Beijing-based criminal lawyer, said the changes are "up to international standards", and can better protect the rights of the detained "if they can be enforced well".

"It is the first time forced work in China's detention-house has been explicitly ruled out by a regulation," he said.

Apart from this, the regulation also requires detention houses to respect the dietary habits of different ethnic groups, and to ensure outdoor activities for the detained are not fewer than two hours each day.

The regulation marks another step by the country after it released a guideline in June to protect the rights of drug addicts who are housed in compulsory rehabilitation centers.

The regulation on drug addicts bans forced work of drug abusers in rehabilitation, and if they are willing to work, the working hours can be no longer than six hours each day and their health has to be considered.

The new regulation also requires detention houses to inform relatives of the detained "on time" after the person has been held in custody.

Tang and Wang said it would be better if the regulation were more specific.

"One of the articles said staff members responsible for detentions should tell the detained people's relatives and lawyers in a timely manner, but it does not clearly write a time limit," Tang said.

"That might make it difficult for officers to enforce in the future."

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