Journal of Chinese Political Science

, Volume 24, Issue 2, pp 315–339 | Cite as

Depoliticization, Politicization, and Criminalization: How China Has Been Handling Political Prisoners since 1980s

  • Ware FongEmail author


By exploring the CECC’s political prisoner database and employing three ARDL times series models and two OLS models, the paper finds that China’s party-state has been dealing with political cases through depoliticization, politicization, and criminalization within and without the judiciary. The author argues that these strategies employed by China’s party-state are a function of China’s modernization, domestic conflicts, and the urgency to sustain political stability. Unlike what happened in the Western history where depoliticization was usually followed with democratization, China’s depoliticization has been strategically utilized to justify the Party’s rule over China mainly through its judicial system. China’s politicization, as a fundamental political strategy, has been often applied to handle those political threats such as Falun Gong practitioners and political/civil rights fighters, who are unable to be publicly criminalized and trialed but can be penalized with covert judicial and/or extra-judicial means by the Chinese government.


China Political prisoners Depoliticization Politicization Criminalization 



I would like to thank Dr. Martin Dimitrov who encouraged me to continue this study while I was studying at Tulane University. I am also very grateful for Dr. Aie-Rie Lee’s comments when I presented this study at 2016 Southwestern Social Science Association Annual Meeting in Las Vegas. I really appreciate three anonymous reviewers who provided valuable suggestions to improve this paper. Special thanks to Dr. Dennis Patterson who supports me to do China studies in comparative politics. All errors are mine.


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Copyright information

© Journal of Chinese Political Science/Association of Chinese Political Studies 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Political Science DepartmentTexas Tech UniversityLubbockUSA

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