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Claims about a pursuit of justice weave through all periods of China's modern history. But what do authorities mean when they refer to 'justice' and do Chinese citizens interpret justice in the same way as their leaders? This book explores how certain ideas about justice have come to be dominant in Chinese polity and society, and how some conceptions of justice have been rendered more powerful and legitimate than others. This book's focus on 'how' justice works incorporates a concern about the processes that lead to the making, un-making and re-making of distinct conceptions of justice. Investigating the processes and frameworks through which certain ideas about justice have come to the political and social forefront in China today, this innovative work explains how these ideas are articulated through spoken performances and written expression by both the party-state and its citizenry.
From the late 1940s the CCP grappled with the problems of consolidating and institutionalising its political power and restoring order. The public order situation in newly liberated cities was described as generally ‘chaotic’. From its efforts to deal with this chaotic situation at the same time as working to entrench its political power, the Party state evolved a comprehensive social order strategy in which administrative detention played an important role. In the official imagination at least, this social order strategy was so successful that the period between 1952 and 1960 was idealised as a time of ‘peace and prosperity’.
The ways in which the tasks of establishing political and social order were eventually achieved continue to influence approaches to the maintenance of social order today. They comprised strategies of education and reform, the use of administrative measures and the exercise of dictatorship, that is, the severe punishment of crime and political offences.
The political environment in which the comprehensive programme to manage social order developed in the late 1970s was different from that of the 1950s. The social and economic situation in which it was implemented was also radically altered. However, the contemporary public order programme draws on a similar mix of elements as those attributed to the 1950s and Mao Zedong: education and reform, the use of administrative measures and the severe punishment of crime.
The Party policy of ruling according to law has finally begun to have an impact on administrative detention. Despite some minor reforms, the police detention powers examined in this book have become increasingly inconsistent with the standards of the evolving administrative legal regime, both in terms of the legal basis of the powers and of the regulation of their scope and procedure. As I discussed in chapter 8, mechanisms for supervision of police detention have failed to curb abuses. With official acceptance that the law must not only protect administrative efficiency and empower the police but also protect the rights of citizens, the ongoing systemic abuse of these powers by local police is becoming socially and politically unjustifiable. There is a recognition that these powers, if they are to be retained, must be reformed to make them more compatible with the developing legal framework and that there is a need to create a rational structure for the coercive powers of state. Where a decision is made not to reform, or where a power cannot be reformed, the conditions are now conducive for their abolition.
Legal reform of administrative detention powers has begun, usually taking the form of incremental changes to regulation of the power and to the principles for exercise of that power. Occasionally, reform takes a form that is dramatic and thoroughgoing. An example of such radical reform occurred in 2003.