Reform of the labor camps, the skepticism of civil society
The announcement leaked yesterday clashes with messages of a very different nature from state media: "The authorities want to reform, not eliminate, the laojiao." And human rights activists show little confidence: "Maybe it's just a cosmetic change, change a name and they are happy."

Beijing (AsiaNews) - The reform of the system of forced labor in China, announced but not confirmed by a senior executive, has sparked debate between those who work for human rights in the country. As part of its new lease of reform, the Chinese government has leale its intention of putting an end to forced labor camps, in particular laojiao ("reform through labor"), to which Christians, members of the Falun Gong and people suspect of petty crimes are sent.

In a meeting closed to the public, which was held yesterday, Meng Jianzhu, Secretary of the Committee for Political and Legal Affairs of the Communist Party of China, said that this year China would stop the practice of "re-education through labor". Today, the mainstream media and sources that have been consulted on the matter sent conflicting signals.

Even if an official present at the meeting confirmed what was written by media in Hong Kong, a Xinhua article on the conference states that authorities are committed to "reforming" the system, while other analysts point out that Meng spoke of "stopping" and not "abolishing" the system of laojiao.

The activists and advocates for human rights in the country have some reservations. Maya Wang, a researcher at Human Rights Watch, said: "Although the announcement is certainly a positive step, it is still far from clear what lies in the future. Will the government make only cosmetic changes to the system, like giving it another name? Anything short of abolition will only leave us with a more entrenched system and do nothing to end existing abuses".

For the China Human Rights Defender the laojiao system is very convenient for the police, who use it to keep even those who were acquitted by the legal courts in their custody. For the group, one of the most active in the field of human rights in China, the laojiaos are "a hotbed of injustice."