China's top law enforcement official says police this year will stop handing out labor camp sentences under a system that has allowed authorities to lock up defendants for up to four years without trial.

Monday's announcement by Communist Party Politics and Law Committee head Meng Jianzhu wasn't officially announced, but was reported by Chen Dongsheng, a bureau chief for the Legal Daily, the official newspaper of China's Justice Ministry.

Chen said he heard Meng make the pledge at a conference carried on closed-circuit television. China's supreme court and other officials declined to comment, although the respected independent magazine Caixin said it had confirmed Chen's report with an unidentified conference participant.

The labor camp system has been criticized as outdated and open to abuse.