When on July 5 China detained four Shanghai employees of Rio Tinto, a prominent Anglo-Australian company, on charges involving state secrets, the world immediately took note. While global media scrambled to decipher the ramifications of invoking “state secrets” under Chinese criminal procedure, a related story was quietly unfolding. China’s National People’s Congress had just released for public comment a draft revision of its 1989 Law for Protecting State Secrets.
Jerome Cohen and Margaret K. Lewis's recent book, Challenge to China, offers a unique historical vantage point from which to understand two recently abolished, severe forms of administrative detention: the liumang system from Taiwan, and China's re-education through labor (RTL) system. The two systems, both of which allowed police to bypass the normal criminal justice system in imposing punishments of several years' detention on light offenders, had long been viewed as indispensable tools for law enforcement.
Most countries, including the United States, struggle to strike a balance between the need to keep some government information secret in the interest of national security and the need to provide free access to most information in the interest of popular participation and economic development.