China: Reform of abusive detention law vital to Beijing Olympics human rights commitments

'Re-education Through Labour' - detention without charge, trial or judicial review for up to four years – should be abolished, said Amnesty International today in an open letter to the Chinese National People’s Congress.

Beijing police have used China's hosting of the Olympic Games as a pretext to extend abusive detention practices such as 'Re-education Through Labour' (RTL) and 'Enforced Drug Rehabilitation', in the name of 'cleaning up' the city in the lead-up to the 2008 Olympic Games.

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:

“Locking people up without charge or trial in the name of ‘re-education’ may ‘clean up’ Beijing’s streets ahead of the Olympics, but it will also dirty China’s reputation.

“Chinese officials have publicly committed to improving human rights in the run-up to Beijing 2008. If they are serious about this promise, they have a real opportunity to improve human rights by abolishing ‘re-education through labour’.

“We all want a positive Olympics, with a positive legacy for China and its people. There is still time to make this a reality.”

Hundreds of thousands of people are believed to be held in RTL facilities, many in harsh conditions. RTL is used against people considered by the Chinese police to have committed offences not serious enough to be punished under the Criminal Law. These include petty criminals, critics of the government and followers of banned beliefs.

According to official Chinese media, the Standing Committee of China’s legislature, the National People’s Congress is due to discuss a new law, the 'Illegal Behaviour Correction Law', to replace RTL this month. The reform of RTL, and the discussion on the new law, has been stalled for more than two years.

The proposed reform of RTL has been on China's legislative agenda for more than two years. Amnesty International has long raised concerns about the use of RTL, and urges the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress in the lead-up to the Olympics to ensure that any legislation adopted to replace RTL complies fully with international human rights standards, including the right to fair trial.

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