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Reflection on Police Abuse of Power in the People's Republic of China

NCJ Number
Police Quarterly Volume: 1 Issue: 2 Dated: 1998 Pages: 87-112
K C Wong
Date Published
26 pages
Police abuse of authority in the People's Republic of China (PRC) is examined in terms of its prevalence, a case study of police abuse of investigative detention (shouron shencha), and an analysis of some of the cultural, institutional, and ideological factors accounting for the abuse of police powers in the Deng era after 1979.
The police abuse of legal powers in the PRC has been attributed to a lack of institutional supervision and a failure of legal control. However, other more enduring reasons contribute to police abuse of power in the PRC. These include the lack of an entrenched legal culture in the rule of law, the absence of an ingrained constitutional spirit in limited government, and the emergence of pragmatism as a political ideology. Data on legal violation of detention, prosecutions for illegal arrest, and annual self-reports by cities and provinces on illegal and overextended detention all indicate police abuse of arrest and detention powers. The abusive use of shouron shencha by the police is a prime example. The solution to police lawlessness in the PRC lies partly in having more laws or assuring more stringent law enforcement. It also requires the development of a more rooted legal culture, starting with a supportive political ideology that makes fidelity to the law a categorical imperative and transcendental value and not just a convenient instrument and expedient measure. Tables, notes, list of case citations, and 106 references (Author abstract modified)