China Turns Labor Camps Into Forced Drug "Rehab" Centers

In an effort to appease human rights concerns over antiquated and inhumane forms of punishment, China's central government announced last month that it will abolish its infamous forced labor camps. The oppressive camps are not actually going away though: they are being turned into forced drug rehabilitation centers. 

g_yulong/Flickrg_yulong/FlickrThe announcment came after the conclusion of the Third Plenary meeting of the Communist Party, a gathering of China's top policymakers and political leaders, when the government issued a press release detailing its plans to curtail the country's human rights abuses by enacting "comprehensive reform."  

The reforms include (allegedly) putting an end to forced labor camps, or the "laojiao" system, as well as the one-child policy. 

The laojiao system has been the subject of intense criticism from human rights groups and Chinese citizens for decades. Established in 1957, the camps detain petty criminal offenders, drug users, and political and religious dissidents for up to four years without trial. Inmates spend their days working long hours in unsafe factory conditions. And they're widespread: In a 2009 report to a United Nations human rights forum, the Chinese government acknowledged the existence of 320 facilities nationwide holding 190,000 people. 

However, according to a new report from Reuters, the camps will remain largely intact for drug users. From the report:

Many of China's re-education through labor camps, instead of being abolished in line with a ruling Communist Party announcement this month, are being turned into compulsory drug rehabilitation centers where inmates can be incarcerated for two years or more without trial.

Human rights activists and freed inmates said drug offenders were still being forced to do factory work, as has been the practice under the re-education through labor system.

New York-based Human Rights Watch estimates more than 60 percent of the 160,000 people in labor camps at the start of the year were there for drug offenses. Those people were unlikely to see any change in their treatment, it said.

"The drug detox people are doing exactly the same work," said Li, who spent 19 months in a labor camp in Kunming, the capital of southern Yunnan province.

Government websites and state media have detailed the transition, as many camps have started to change their names and re-train staff. But they describe the new policy as a form of compassionate treatment for addicts, rather than a continuation of forced labor. 

In the Shanghai Daily, Kong Shuhua, director of Xishuangbanna’s Justice Bureau, said, “The new rehab center will provide compulsory drug rehabilitation treatment for addicts, and help them find self confidence again."

The policy is part of China's escalating crackdown on illicit drug consumers.

According to The Atlantic, the influx of recreational drugs into China (a product of "more relaxed borders, increased wealth, and greater individual freedoms") has resulted in frequent record-breaking drug busts. In 2008, the government implemented an anti-drug law that severely criminalized users. Anyone caught using a classified drug, such as cocaine, heroin, or marijuana, would be labelled an "addict" in the state's official reigstry and shipped to a labor camp.

In 2010, Human Rights Watch released a report outlining the conditions in China's drug "rehabilition" centers:

Individuals detained in some drug detention centers are routinely beaten, denied medical treatment, and forced to work up to 18 hours a day without pay. Although sentenced to "rehabilitation," they are denied access to effective drug dependency treatment and provided no opportunity to learn skills to reintegrate into the community.

Jiang Tianyong, a human rights lawyer in Beijing, told Reuters"It's wrong to say [the announced end of forced labor camps] has no meaning, but it's too optimistic to think it will change a lot."

"This is how power in this country operates," he continued. "They can't use re-education through labor camps to control people, so they just change the name and control people."

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  • Dweebston||

    In other news, involuntary commitments of drug abusers has skyrocketed in China following humanitarian concerns that not enough is being done to aid addicts.

  • ||

    China, responding in completely the wrong way since forever.

  • Almanian!||

    Individuals detained in some drug detention centers are routinely beaten, denied medical treatment, and forced to work up to 18 hours a day without pay. Although sentenced to "rehabilitation," they are denied access to effective drug dependency treatment and provided no opportunity to learn skills to reintegrate into the community.

    Other than the 18 hours of labor, this sounds pretty much like a lot of US jails. Our mothers would be so proud.

    Fuck China. Fuck the US.

  • The Last American Hero||

    I'm not advocating for forced labor, but there might be a bit less prison rape if they're working 18 hours a day.

  • pan fried wylie||

    "You didn't meet your quota today, too busy raping I suppose. Tsk tsk tsk."

  • Rhywun||

    "Did we say rehab camps? We meant happy camps!"

  • ||

    LaBarbara: [whispering] This is no spa, it's a forced-labor camp!

    Hermes: Curse that Dr. Zoidberg! If I get out of here, he'll be looking down the business-end of a shrimp fork.

    [An Australian man dressed in a vest and a hat turns around.]

    Australian Man: Give him one for me too, mate. I don't know why I go to him.

  • Agammamon||

    Did the hat have corks or one of those big feathers?

  • hotsy totsy||

    Hah! Amateurs compared to Great Britain.

  • Paul.||

    The oppressive camps are not actually going away though: they are being turned into forced drug rehabilitation centers.

    Thomas Friedman approves!

  • Austrian Anarchy||

    Also note that these 190,000 are the ones in maximum security prison. The rest of the country is general population.

  • Rich||

    “The new rehab center will provide compulsory drug rehabilitation treatment for addicts, and help them find self confidence again."

    Without the former stigma associated with "political prisoner".

  • Ken Shultz||

    At least the Chinese are serious about drug rehabilitation.

    Barack Obama doesn't give a shit if you stop using--so long as he can lock you up in jail.

  • SIV||

    Progs love them some "harm reduction". Now all the Chinese need is a weed tax to fund the rehab camps.

  • Austrian Anarchy||

    Or they can charge the incarcerated for the pleasure of being locked up. I hear that happens in the USA on occasion too.

  • Ornithorhynchus||

    Now that China's getting tough on drugs, does this mean Britain will declare war on them again?

  • ||

    The reforms include (allegedly) putting an end to forced labor camps, or the "laojiao" system, as well as the one-child policy.

    They've not said they'll end the One Child policy, only that they'll add more exceptions to it.

  • Boisfeuras||

    "'Nowadays it's fun being locked up,' Švejk continued with relish. 'There's no quartering, no Spanish boots. We've got bunks, a table, a bench. We're not all squashed together like sardines: we get soup; they give us bread and bring us a jug of water. We've got our latrines right under our snouts. You can see progress in everything. It's true that it's a bit far to the interrogation room. You've got to go along more than three corridors and up one staircase, but on the other hand it's clean and lively in the corridors. They bring one person here, another there—young, old, male and female. You can be glad that at least you're not alone here. Everyone goes his own sweet way and no one need be afraid that in the office they'll tell him: 'Well, we've considered your case and tomorrow you'll be quartered or burnt. The choice is up to you.' That certainly wasn't an easy choice to make, and I think, gentlemen, that many of us at a time like that would be completely flummoxed by it. Yes, nowadays things have improved for our good.'"

    – Jaroslav Hašek, The Good Soldier Švejk (1923)

  • Generic Stranger||

    Meet the new camp, same as the old camp.

  • RishJoMo||

    That sounds like some crazy smack dude.

    www.AnonTru.tk

  • prolefeed||

    In an entirely surprising future turn of events, it will quietly be discovered that 100% of all political prisoners have a drug problem that requires forced rehab.

  • GroundTruth||

    Now where is Walmart going to get cheap crap to sell to us?

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