Reform of administrative detention powers and the problem for minor crime

biddulph-sarahCentre for Contemporary Chinese Studies, Asia Institute, University of Melbourne

Professor Sarah Biddulph, University of Melbourne

5.30-7.00pm Thursday 19 May 2016
Evan Williams Theatre (G03), Richard Berry Building, Monash Road, University of Melbourne

What do we make of abolition of the administrative detention power of Re-education through Labour (RETL)? Many hoped that it marked greater acceptance of the need for development of a regularised, rule-based system of punishments in China. However, since its abolition, misuse of law to lend a semblance of legality to the repression of rights lawyers, publishers and human rights activists (amongst others) again raises questions about the commitment of the Party-state to rule-bound governance. In the post-RETL world a number of basic questions about the scope and structure of China’s system of punishments remain unresolved. What gaps, if any, has abolition of RETL left in the system of punishments? What is the emerging structure of the system of punishments and how does it relate to legal principles of proportionality, accountability and fairness? This paper discusses the reforms in criminal and administrative law both before and after abolition of RETL that are shaping the system of punishments. It focuses in particular on debates circulating around the two concepts of minor crime and security punishments.

Sarah Biddulph is an Australian Research Council Future Fellow (2014-2018) and Professor of Law at the Melbourne Law School. Sarah’s research focuses on the Chinese legal system with a particular emphasis on legal policy, law making and enforcement as they affect the administration of justice in China. Her particular areas of research are contemporary Chinese administrative law, criminal procedure, labour, comparative law and the law regulating social and economic rights. Her recent publications include: The Stability Imperative: Human rights and law in China (2015) UBC Press, Legal Reform and Administrative Detention Powers in China (2007) CUP, Law and Fair Work in China: Making and Enforcing Labour Standards in the PRC co-authored with Sean Cooney and Ying Zhu (2013) Routledge, and The Politics of Law and Stability in China, (2014) Edward Elgar: London co-edited with Susan Trevaskes, Elisa Nesossi and Flora Sapio.

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