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Persia to China: the Silk Road of Restorative Justice I


This paper to the 2016 Beijing meeting of the Asian Criminological Society is the first of two lectures on the theme of The Silk Road of Restorative Justice. The second is the annual lecture of the European Forum for Restorative Justice held jointly with the Asia-Pacific Forum for Restorative Justice in Milan (Braithwaite 2017). This first paper opens the idea of restorative justice as a way of thinking that flows back and forth along the Silk Road with a special focus on the development of relational, republican, and feminist thought in ancient and modern China and Persia. Both contemporary China and Iran are left today with quite a universal yet modest national policy of support for restorative justice. Some co-optation of restorative justice by the state and disengagement from it by many key justice professionals are evident in both China and Iran. The second paper argues more normatively for openness to hybridity along the Silk Road. It identifies virtues of being a republican-socialist-capitalist-feminist advocate of restorative justice in light of what we learn along the Silk Road. The unifying message of both papers is that excellence in restorative justice is nurtured by travelling many roads in search of helpful hybrids.

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  1. 1.

    Reciprocity, mutuality, and harmony were central to Confucian ways of seeing: [Analects XXIII] Tsze-kung asked, saying, ‘Is there one word which may serve as a rule of practice for all one’s life?’ The Master said, ‘is not RECIPROCITY such a word? What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others.’ (Confucius 1974: 123).

  2. 2.

    In John Braithwaite’s interview (051606) with Grand Ayatollah Musavy Ardabily (who was in recent times head of the Iranian Judiciary), he qualified it by summarizing the detailed and complex rules regulating forgiveness in this way: ‘Yes you also have a right to forgive as a victim but not for all types of crime and not in all circumstances.”’ Yet ‘Forgiveness is the priority above everything…Forgiveness is desired by God. You are closer to God”’s course, to God’s will when you forgive.’ He went on to explain why forgivability for murder was needed in order to maintain peace on earth, but forgiving rape was not possible on earth because of the threat it involves to God’s moral order.

  3. 3.

    In Lorestan Province, for example, with a population of less than one million, there were 270 local mediation councils during our 2016 fieldwork with 1700 trained mediators (meeting 051614 with Lorestan judiciary and mediation leadership).


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Correspondence to Yan Zhang.

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Braithwaite, J., Zhang, Y. Persia to China: the Silk Road of Restorative Justice I. Asian Criminology 12, 23–38 (2017).

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  • Restorative justice
  • Silk road
  • Confucius
  • Republican
  • Feminist
  • Forgiveness