China appears to be on the verge of closing, or, at minimum, seriously reforming its 350 forced labor camps, together with injecting due process into its system. It is an historic development, one under-reported in the mainstream Western media. The New York Times and Reuters, but far too few other media, are on this story. This may turn out to be the world’s most important humanitarian development of the year, perhaps even of this young century.
The New York Times’s Andrew Jacobs, last December 15, was the first first-string reporter to catch the Tea Party-like popular groundswell against China’s Gulags:
“’It’s high time we demolish this unconstitutional and abusive system that violates basic human rights, fuels instability and smears the government’s image,’ said Hu Xingdou, a professor at the Beijing Institute of Technology who frequently rails against the system that Mao Zedong created in the 1950s to take down suspected class enemies and counterrevolutionaries.
“People’s Daily, the Communist Party’s mouthpiece, took aim at the system last month, saying it had become ‘a tool of retaliation’ for local officials. In October the head of a government judicial reform committee noted a broad consensus in favor of addressing the system’s worst abuses.
“And in a widely circulated recent essay, the vice president of the Supreme People’s Court, Jiang Bixin, argued that the government must act within the law if it is to survive. ‘Only with constraints on public power can the rights and freedoms of citizens be securely realized,’ he wrote.
“China’s incoming president, Xi Jinping, has not yet weighed in on the issue, but reform advocates are encouraged by a speech he gave this month talking up the widely ignored protections afforded by China’s Constitution, which include freedom from unlawful detention and the right to an open trial. “We must establish mechanisms to restrain and supervise power,” Mr. Xi said.
Hopeful sentiments for substantial liberalization — and even ultimate abolition — of forced labor camps promptly began to be borne out upon the inauguration of President Xi, as reported by Reuters’s Michael Martina and Terril Yue Jones in January:
China will reform its controversial system of forced labor camps this year, state media reported on Monday, which would mark a first step toward legal reform promised by new Communist Party chief Xi Jinping.