China Formally Abolishes Labor Camps Used on House Church Christians

ICC Note: In late December China’s parliament officially adopted a resolution ending the use of forced labor camps as a form of punishment for political prisoners. The camps have been used for more than five decades as a way to punish and silence groups considered “dissidents”, which includes Christians who refuse to worship in a government controlled “Three-Self” Church. The resolution is great news for house church Christians and other groups in China who regularly saw members sentenced to up to four years without  trial in the camps by local police. However China continues to use other forms of detainment, including house arrest and unmarked “black jails” to pressure dissident groups. 

12/29/2013 China (Christian Post) – China’s parliament on Saturday formally adopted resolutions, easing the country’s decades-old one-child policy and also abolishing its controversial labor camp system which was used against house church Christians among others, according to the official Xinhua news agency.

The two resolutions, which were part of a sweeping range of reforms announced by the ruling Chinese Communist Party last month, were adopted on Saturday at the bimonthly session of the National People’s Congress’ Standing Committee, or China’s largely rubber-stamp parliament.

The other key resolution adopted Saturday abolished “laojiao,” or re-education through labor, with immediate effect. The system empowers police to send petty criminals to labor camps for up to four years without having to get an approval from a court.

All those serving time in labor camps would be released beginning Saturday, the resolution states, but also adds that the penalties handed out before the abolition would still remain valid, apparently to prevent the victims from seeking legal redress.

The controversial punishment system was established in 1957 to punish critics of the Communist Party. However, the system has also been used to deal with house church Christians, Falun Gong practitioners, minority nationalities – including Tibetans – and democracy activists.

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