Chinese Law Prof Blog

Editor: Donald C. Clarke
George Washington University Law School

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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Compulsory "legal education" as a substitute for Re-education Through Labor?

The Dui Hua Foundation has an interesting article on its web site about local authorities' newfound enthusiasm for legal education - this time, of the compulsory kind, where petitioners are forced against their will to stay for days or even months at a facility where they are ostensibly to be educated to understand and obey the law. This is apparently being done in response to the declining utility of re-education through labor (RETL) as a measure against petitioners - petitioning per se may soon no longer be subject to RETL, and RETL itself may be on the way out.

I just want to add a couple of comments. First, it bears repeating that petitioning of the kind that typically gets petitioners locked up does not in fact violate any law. It's the local authorities that need the education in that respect.

Second, and more importantly, the Dui Hua Foundation article says only that this kind of compulsory "legal education" violates the Chinese constitution and international human rights norms. This is an unnecessarily weak argument; neither of those two norms are robust sources of law in the Chinese legal system. We can actually say something much stronger. Since compulsory legal education does not have any foundation in statutory law - that is, legislation passed by the National People's Congress or its Standing Committee - then it cannot serve as a basis for the deprivation of personal liberty. This is spelled out clearly in Article 8 of the Law on Legislation, and it's the same argument that has been made against RETL. If a deprivation of personal liberty has no legal basis, then it's either kidnapping or unlawful detention, both of which violate the Criminal Law, which is a robust source of law in the Chinese legal system. So let's call this what it is.

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/china_law_prof_blog/2013/05/compulsory-legal-education-as-a-substitute-for-re-education-through-labor.html

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