Official details China's judicial reform plans

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China's authority on judicial system reform has expatiated on plans to reform the country's petition system and abolish its controversial "reeducation through labor" program.

Monday's edition of the People's Daily quoted an unidentified official with the central leading group for the reform as saying that the petition system will be overhauled to protect the public's fundamental interests.

Petitioning, also known as "letters and calls," is the administrative system for hearing public complaints and grievances.

China will reform its petition system and authorities must respond to petitions within the legal framework, according to a key policy document approved at the Third Plenary Session of the 18th Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee on Nov. 12.

Petitions regarding legal and judicial systems should be left for judicial remedies and handled by judiciary agencies in accordance with laws, the official said, adding bureaus for letters and calls will not accept such cases.

Judiciary agencies should finish handling such petitions within legal time limits set by legal procedures, the official noted.

The CPC Central Committee also pledged at the session to abolish the "reeducation through labor" system, commonly known as "Laojiao."

The correction system was adopted in 1957 to take in minor offenders whose offence is not severe enough to warrant court proceedings. It allows for people to be detained for up to four years without an open trial.

"With the improvement of China's legal system, those minor offenders can be punished in accordance with current laws through rigid legal procedures," the official said, adding that the number of people committed to Laojiao labor camps has gradually decreased in the past few years.

According to the source, social stability has been maintained since the correction system was suspended nationwide in March and it is time to abolish the system, while proposals to do so are being drafted and will be submitted to the top legislature for an amendment to the laws.

To fill in the blanks after the Laojiao program is abolished, China will promote community correction programs, the official said, with these believed to help offenders better return to society.

China introduced community correction schemes in 2003. About 1.7 million offenders have been through the program and the recidivism rate remains at 0.2 percent.

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