onsdag 16. september 2020

The Vagaries of Crime and Punishment in China

This week saw the detention in China of Geng Xiaonan, a well-known Beijing publisher and outspoken supporter of the famously harassed former Tsinghua University law professor Xu Zhangrun. Geng is reportedly destined for “very heavy” punishment, not the 15 day maximum in an unpleasant detention cell usually imposed for minor offenses not deemed sufficiently grave to constitute a “crime.” The initial “illegal activity” charge against her is vague enough to cover either her publishing business alone or her open support for Xu or, very likely, both. How long her husband, detained with her, will be held will depend on how important his interrogation seems to her case.

The ongoing repression of mainland Chinese protesters against injustice continues to raise many questions about the Communist Party’s punishment systems. Who gets detained? When? After what kinds of warnings and preliminary “education”? What type of detention is chosen and why? When, for example, does the Party select, for up to six months, the widely-feared incommunicado detention by a government “supervisory commission,” initially preempting not only the formal criminal process but the entire justice system?