Chinese Re-Education through Labor Simulation


In this three-stage simulation, the Chinese government considers the reform of its re-education through labor regime.  

The objective is for students taking on the perspectives of Chinese politicians to reach a consensus, that can then be justified to those acting as international actors, on (a) whether to reform China’s re-education through labor system; if so, (b) which reforms should be adopted.  The first stage requires participants acting as Chinese politicians to build consensus within the State Council on whether to reform the system and which reforms to adopt.  In the second stage, participants from the first stage consult with the Politburo.  In the third stage, the Chinese Foreign Minister presents the reforms to the international community.  Students are assessed on their participation and using pre and post quizzes.

Here are the instructions:

Gov 90ps - Simulation Two Instructions

Administrative Detention in China: Re-education Through Labor

Purpose: The Chinese government is currently considering an overhaul of its criminal justice system and the National People’s Congress (NPC) (China’s ‘formal’ law-making body) has been debating a series of proposed reforms of China’s criminal procedure laws. As part of this, and partially in response to recent international criticism (particularly within the United Nations during China’s Universal Period Review of human rights), the Chinese government is also considering reform of its re-education through labor regime. This simulation will focus on the three primary policy-making institutions within China: the National Peoples Congress; the State Council (Cabinet); and the Politburo Standing Committee of the Communist Party of China (PSC). The objective is for all Chinese politicians to reach a consensus, that can then be justified internationally, on (a) whether to reform China’s re-education through labor system; if so, (b) which reforms should be adopted.

You should derive your position within the simulation from the perspective of the actor you have been assigned, given your interests. You will need to identify your actor’s interests based on the assigned reading and outside research (searching news articles and the web will be more than sufficient). Note that unlike the first simulation, you will have much more leeway in determining what your actor’s interests and goals are. This may require you to make inferences, particularly when an individual’s position has not been made public. You should consider first and foremost the position your actor holds both within the government and within the Party. Given your actor’s position, what considerations would he be likely to prioritize? What constraints exist on his ability to push for this position? There is no right or wrong position for each actor. You should think about all sides of the issue, and develop a position that may be subject to change based on your deliberation within each of the policy-making fora.

Ten of you will be assigned to your own role. Eight of you will be assigned to a role with one other person; these actors will participate in both stages of the simulation. You should coordinate with your partner on your actor’s position, but each of you will be responsible for taking the lead during at least one of the stages.

Date: September 2011

Context: Since the late 1950s, China has employed a variety of forms of administrative detention, which have allowed people to be detained for long periods without charge or trial outside the criminal justice system.  Individuals held in administrative detention are not entitled to the safeguards for criminal suspects enshrined in China’s Criminal Procedure Law.  In 1996, the Law on Administrative Penalties was adopted and came into force; it regulates the system of administrative sanctions, including administrative detention.

Perhaps the administrative detention regime in China that has received the most international attention has been that of re-education through labor (laodong jiaoyang). Re-education through labor involves detention without trial or charge; the decision to detain an individual is supposed to be made by an Administrative Committee made up of officials from the bureaus of civil affairs, public security, and labor. In practice, however, public security officers dominate the decision-making process.

Re-education through labor has been practiced for about fifty years in China.  According to the Chinese authorities, it is imposed as punishment for actions that fall between a crime and a simple error.  It is based on a State Council decision approved in 1957 by the Standing Committee of the NPC, albeit without fixed terms.  On 29 November 1979, the terms of the system were fixed by a State Council decision approved by the NPC Standing Committee for periods of up to three years, with a possible extension of one year.  On 21 January 1982, the Ministry of Public Security, which is in charge of its implementation, issued its first set of comprehensive regulations, which were approved by the State Council.  These regulations stipulated the procedure for deciding on this type of sentence, detailed the categories of people punishable under it and allocated responsibilities for the administration of these facilities. Following the enactment of these regulations, in May 1983 the management of re-education through labor facilities was handed over to the Ministry of Justice, while the Ministry of Public Security retained the authority to decide who should be punished under the regulations.

Since the 1996 reform of the Law on Administrative Penalties, new guarantees have improved administrative detention and re-education through labour institutions.  Detention decisions may be challenged through a number of channels, including administrative litigation before a judge; administrative review and administrative supervision.  And people liable to administrative punishment now also have the right to defend themselves.

In January 2003, new regulations reinforcing the effectiveness of the administrative and judicial procedures to challenge re-education through labor measures were introduced.  The debate within civil society in China on the reform of the re-education through labor system has also evolved considerably.  At the institutional level, however, the system is still defended.  It is argued that re-education through labor is rooted in Chinese society and that it has the advantage of avoiding petty and first-time offenders being given prison sentences and thereby having permanent criminal records.

Chinese authorities put forward the following two arguments.  Firstly, re-education through labor is governed by administrative, not by criminal law, hence a decision to place someone in such an institution does not have a criminal law character.  As a consequence, the involvement of a judge in the decision is not necessary.  Secondly, they explained that even if the law does not provide for the involvement of a judge in decisions to send someone to such an institution, avenues, including judicial ones, are available against such decisions.

Relevant laws provide detailed rules on how the decision-making procedure to place someone in a re-education through labor institution should be conducted.  The legal framework for such decision-making seems to reflect the international standards of due process of law:  the administrative procedure is public, the individual concerned has to be heard, he/she is given the opportunity to put forward a defense, legal counsel can apparently represent him/her, and the authority shall issue a reasoned decision.  The decision of the authority is subject to judicial review.

The operation of the laws governing decision-making on placement in a re-education through labor camp is, however, highly problematic.  From reliable sources, including interviews with persons affected, it is clear that in the overwhelming majority of cases, a decision on placement in a re-education center is not taken within a formal procedure provided by law.  The commission vested with the power to take this decision in practice never or seldom meets, the person affected does not appear before it and is not heard, no public and adversarial procedure is conducted, no formal and reasoned decision on a placement is taken (or issued for the person affected).  Thus, the decision-making process completely lacks transparency.  In addition, recourse against decisions are often considered after the term in a center has been served. 

See the attached document for roles and resources, in addition to more detailed instructions.

resources.doc606 KB