09/10/2013, 00.00
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Guangzhou, state gulags to be closed by year’s end

The capital of the rich southern province of Guangdong confirms the approximately 100 detainees still held in forced labor camps will be released before 2014. But there are no religious personalities or political dissidents among them. It is not yet clear what will happen to the system of "re-education through labor" launched by Mao Zedong.

Guangzhou (AsiaNews ) - The government of the metropolis of Guangzhou, capital of the rich southern province of Guangdong , has announced that it will release "100 prisoners" later this year who are currently held in State camps for "re-education through labor " . After this release, "no one will be interned in the camps". The system, known as "laojiao", is at the center of a wide-ranging national debate: many, including the current leadership , say they want to abolish the system, but their words have not been followed by actions .

The laojiao are a form of imprisonment that has existed since the days of Mao Zedong. Very often Christians , dissidents , Falun Gong members are interned in them . The state-run China Daily newspaper , reports that there are about 320 laojiaos, where 500 thousand people, mostly criminals from the drug-world, are currently held . In these labor camps - organized as farms or factories - the prisoners have a punishing schedule, working up to 12-15 hours a day for a minimum monthly pay .

After a series of statements related to its repeal, the new Premier Li Keqiang addressed the subject of the laojiao, promising a "national reform of the system within a year," but declining to give details except to say that these " will be announced soon." In addition to Guangdong , which seeks to maintain its reputation as the province most open to the world , Yunnan has also announced that it " will not send any more" prisoners to labor camps .

The prisoners who will be freed in Guangzhou are all common criminals. However, political dissidents and religious leaders are frequently sent to these state gulags, often after being detained without trial: the reform of the code of criminal procedure launched by Zhou Yongkang , who later ended up being investigated, allows the police to intern " uncomfortable " social elements in these labour camps for a maximum of 3 years.


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