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Criminal Justice in China

An Empirical Inquiry Mike McConville, Emeritus Professor and Honorary Fellow, Centre for Rights and Justice, Faculty of Law, The Chinese University of Hong Kong
The political, economic and social transformations that have taken place in China over the last half-century have had a major impact upon the formal methods, institutions and mechanisms used to deal with alleged criminal infractions. This path-breaking book, based upon the largest and most systematic empirical inquiry ever undertaken in China, analyses the extent to which changes to the formal legal structure have resulted in changes to the law in practice.
Extent: 576 pp
Hardback Price: £155.00 Web: £139.50
Publication Date: 2011
ISBN: 978 0 85793 190 0
Availability: In Stock
Paperback Price: £46.00 Web: £36.80
Publication Date: 2012
ISBN: 978 0 85793 230 3
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  • Asian Studies
  • Asian Law
  • Law - Academic
  • Asian Law
  • Criminal Law and Justice
  • Human Rights
  • Politics and Public Policy
  • Human Rights
The political, economic and social transformations that have taken place in China over the last half-century have had a major impact upon the formal methods, institutions and mechanisms used to deal with alleged criminal infractions. This path-breaking book, based upon the largest and most systematic empirical inquiry ever undertaken in China, analyses the extent to which changes to the formal legal structure have resulted in changes to the law in practice.

With unprecedented access to prosecution case files, observation of live trials and interviews with judges, prosecutors and defence lawyers, the book paints a uniquely detailed picture of China’s criminal justice system as it operates in everyday cases. Among the major themes explored are: bail; detention; torture; confessions; the role of police, prosecutors and judges; the work of defence lawyers; pre-trial and trial practice; and sentencing practices, including the death penalty. The book shows, through volumes of quantitative data and the voices of judges, prosecutors and defence lawyers, how the party-state continues to influence and control both the process and outcome of criminal trials through an elaborate system of audit and sanction, the result of which is a system of aggregate rather than individual justice.

With a wealth of original empirical data, this book will be of significant interest to academics and postgraduate students in the general area of Chinese studies, human rights, criminal justice and comparative criminal justice. Policy makers, politicians and development agencies will also find it invaluable.
‘In conclusion, I have little doubt that the book will be warmly received not only by students, practitioners, and academics specializing in Chinese law, especially in criminal justice and sociology of law, but also by those interested in comparative law and general China studies.’
– Jianfu Chen, Asian Journal of Criminology

‘. . . this is an outstanding piece of scholarship. . . This remarkable book is a great contribution to our understanding of this tension and how it plays out in the criminal process in China.’
– Susan Trevaskes, The China Journal

‘This book is an extensive survey and appraisal of Chinese criminal justice by Mike McConville and five colleagues. It should interest not only specialists in Chinese law but any reader seeking insights into China’s political culture. It is distinguished by the depth of its empirical approach, displayed notably by extracts from interviews. Its publication is timely.’
– Stanley Lubman, The China Quarterly

‘The various empirical data and the relevant laws are neatly absorbed into the narrative of each chapter, making this book more accessible than one might expect of a 560-page monograph. In the same vein, the book also dispenses with the use of expansive footnotes, impenetrable phrasing and intricate paragraphing which often render academic texts unattractive to everyday readers. . . Criminal Justice in China fills a considerable gap in the body of scholarly work in that it both describes and explains the law in practice.’
– Hans Mahncke, Hong Kong Lawyer

‘The 15 chapters and 560 pages in this book are very valuable, primarily because of the scarcity of information on the Chinese legal system and the veracity of any information on the Internet and newspapers. This book is at once theoretical and practical. The research findings give authenticity to its contents and I can see that this book is at once useful to criminal as well as commercial legal practitioners. . . This very important book on criminal law in China is essential reading for lawyers.’
– Sally Ramage, The Criminal Lawyer

‘Criminal Justice in China is highly recommended. Prof. McConville and his team look at the practice of 13 courts throughout China, review over a thousand case files, observe courtroom activities and interview a large number of judges, prosecutors and lawyers. Its impressive in the scope of data and the depth of analysis. Prof. McConville also brings in the book his decades-long study on the UK system and offers the readers a comparative perspective throughout the reading.’
– Jerome A. Cohen, South China Morning Post / China Times

‘Criminal Justice in China is the most comprehensive work to date on the functioning of China’s criminal justice system. This book is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand any aspect of the system. There are important insights on virtually every page, including in depth study of the role of police, procuracy, courts, and defense lawyers. The book will be of value to anyone interested in governance in China.’
– Benjamin L. Liebman, Columbia Law School, New York, US

‘This book provides readers with a comprehensive and systematic study of how the Chinese criminal process functions in practice. . . It is an empirical mapping of Chinese criminal justice.’
– BO YIN, Social and Legal Studies

With contributions from: Satnam Choongh, Pinky Choy Dick Wan, Eric Chui Wing Hong, Ian Dobinson and Carol Jones
Contents: 1. Introduction 2. Sources of Police Cases 3. Police Powers in Relation to Detention and Arrest 4. The Construction of the Police Case 5. Pre-Trial Preparation of Prosecutors 6. Pre-Trial Involvement of Judges 7. The Construction of the Defence Case 8. Trial Procedure, Rules, Setting and Personnel 9. The Trial: Case File Analysis 10. The Prosecution Observed 11. The Defence at Trial Observed (1) 12. The Defence at Trial Observed (2) 13. Trial Outcomes Observed 14. The Process and the System 15. Conclusion Appendices Bibliography Index