Mon, Dec 15, 2008 - Page 8 News List

It’s ‘rule of law,’ not ‘rule by law’

By Cao Changqing 曹長青

China has a draconian law regulating re-education through labor. People can be placed in this system without charge or due legal process. Re-education through labor is given out as an executive order by the Public Security Bureau (PSB), and the longest period an individual can be placed in re-education through labor is four years. China is the only country in the world with such a law and it does not look like it will be abolished any time soon.

Re-education through labor is a tool used by the Chinese government to punish people that they view as “disobedient,” such as Falun Gong adherents, Christians and dissidents.

Detainees in re-education centers are forced to do hard penal labor and the limits placed on their freedom are the same as if they were in jail. People can be taken into re-education through labor for reasons such as lack of proper employment, undermining discipline, obstructing public order and public affairs and for repeat offenders. These ambiguous regulations give the PSB huge amounts of power, allowing it to issue re-education through labor to anybody it wishes to punish.

Taiwan’s detention system effectively has the same effect as China’s re-education through labor system and gives those in power the opportunity to abuse their power. Any suspect that is “disobedient” or who displeases prosecutors may be detained before charges are brought against them. The “non-collusion clause” plays a major role in detention and prosecutors have the power to decide who is and who isn’t likely to collude with others.

Although judges give out the final verdict, the non-collusion clause normally makes it very difficult for judges to refuse prosecutor’s requests to detain a suspect. The clause makes it extremely convenient for prosecutors to detain anyone they wish, much in the same way as Chinese police can arrest anybody they want and place them in a labor camp.

The detention of former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) is a prime example of how “collusion” can be used as an excuse to detain a suspect. When Chen was taken into detention, other suspects in the case who could have colluded with him had already all been detained. How could Chen have colluded with anyone? The non-collusion clause has provided the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) with a legal expedient for political payback and allowed them to insult and humiliate a former president.

In the US, suspects are in effect permitted to “collude” openly. They are given the right to silence and can be represented by their lawyers. In cases with more than one suspect, the lawyers of each suspect can meet and discuss their plans for representing their plaintiffs against the prosecutors. This is not done to give suspects the opportunity to make up false statements, but to protect their human rights as much as possible and to guard against the abuse of power by the prosecutors.

The police in the US are only allowed to detain suspects for 48 hours, after which they have to release the suspect if the prosecutor does not press charges. When a prosecutor does press charges, the majority of suspects are granted bail while they await a court date. In the US, each state has its own list detailing bail prices for different crimes. Only murder suspects, those who could continue to hurt people or escape are detained.

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