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The detention system has been used to crack down on prostitution, which is illegal on the mainland, since the s. Sex workers and their clients could be detained for up to two years without trial in centers overseen by the police. Although the government does not publish regular numbers of detainees, mainland Chinese media have reported a steady decrease in detentions in recent years, resulting in the closures of some detention facilities.
The punishment was considered comparable to two other extrajudicial measures: the re-education through labor system, which targeted petty criminals, and the custody and repatriation system for illegal migrant workers. Those were abolished in and respectively. The bill is expected to be passed by Saturday. Wang Xioahong, a vice-minister of public security, presented the proposal to the legislature on Monday, Xinhua said.
The system "lacks the most fundamental protection for due process. It is far from open, fair or just," the professor wrote in a paper about the punishment. The paper also said that the system disproportionately targeted alleged female sex workers from impoverished backgrounds. The study found human rights violations in the holding facilities that included excessive force and extortion by police along with forced labor. Abolishing custody and education was long overdue but should not be taken as a precursor of further reforms in China according to the rule of law, said Harvard University law student Wei Changhao, whose blog NPC Observer tracks developments relating to the legislative body.
Sex workers and their customers would still face other forms of punishment if the detention system were abolished. This punishment has been criticized for being applied arbitrarily and, in some instances, for political purposes. In August, Simon Cheng Man-kit, a Hong Kong resident who was working for the British consulate in Hong Kong, was detained by police in the neighboring mainland city of Shenzhen for "engaging in prostitution" while on a business trip. Cheng claimed that he was tortured while in detention.
He said he was held for his connection to the consulate and for helping a mainland friend who had taken part in anti-government protests in Hong Kong. Covering China at Inkstone: year in review Inkstone. Chinese pig farm installs anti-drone system to fend off African swine fever attacks Inkstone.