- Introduction: Demographics, Politics, and Economics of China
The most important thing to consider when thinking about China is the sheer size of the country. There are billions of people in China; the country is extremely overpopulated and very crowded. Socially, it is a country in flux. Today, the Chinese are still reeling from the Cultural Revolution of the 1950s and the massive societal changes that took place at that time. Once China opened her doors to the west, however, she began to grow; today she is one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, and this fact seems unlikely to change.
China also has one of the more restrictive governments in the region. The government strictly controls many things about the private life of the Chinese citizen, including what people can look at on the internet, how many children each family can have, and even the physical geographical location in which each individual can live. Individuals without the proper identification find it difficult to get jobs or settle in areas outside of the areas in which they were born.
China is also, unfortunately, a country where keeping one’s head down is a benefit and a necessity. Things happen in China very frequently, and the local populace is well-acquainted with the proper reaction: absolutely nothing. When a two year old girl was struck by a van in China, Elgot writes: “Tens of pedestrians and cyclists sped past the bleeding girl, lying in agony, and she was run over for a second time by another van” (Elgot). The child was eventually brought to the hospital, but it was too late-- she died of her injuries. Violent crimes are often the same; just recently a video went viral that depicted a group of women stripping another woman naked-- one of the attackers’ husband’s mistress-- and beating her in front of crowds of people. This kind of mob justice, while not necessarily common in China, is not behavior that elicits a huge response from bystanders.
- Freedom of Speech
The Chinese government claims that the people of China have freedom of speech, but this right exists mostly in name only in China. The average Chinese citizen has many restrictions on his or her speech, including what he or she can and cannot say about the Chinese government, even in the privacy of one’s own home (Fleay 2012). Fleay (2012) notes that the Chinese are world-renowned for their apparent distaste for freedom of speech; they even take significant steps to ensure that Chinese citizens are not active on the Internet unless the government can control what sites their citizens can see and what they can say on those sites (Fleay 2012). The Chinese government has been known to jail individuals for their participation on websites, and for the things they post online(Fleay 2012).
China also ostensibly has adopted the idea of the freedom of the press, but in reality, China has no press freedom. The Chinese government and communist party controls all the press that is released to its citizens (Fleay 2012). The average Chinese citizen has no say in what they glean from the news; the news tells every citizen exactly what he or she should be listening to every day. The level of propaganda in the country is very, very significant; most of the Chinese citizenry have no idea that they are not seeing real news (Fleay 2012).
- Right to a Speedy Trial
In the West, it is common to think of the “right to a speedy trial” as the right of the individual to not sit in jail too long before he or she goes to trial for something he or she has been accused of doing. However, in China, the issue is very different, and slightly more complex (Feng 2009). If Chinese citizens receive the right to a trial at all, the trial is not necessarily speedy, nor is it ever really fair. The Chinese government controls judges and lawyers; the criminal justice system in China is notoriously corrupt, and there is little in the way of recourse for individuals who find themselves victimized by the Chinese criminal justice system (Feng 2009). Prominent Chinese citizens are often jailed for miniscule crimes, or crimes so broad they require much more specificity; for instance, prominent artist Ai Wei Wei is often jailed for subverting the Chinese government, and he rarely is allowed to see his lawyer and has yet to be granted a trial for his supposed crimes (Feng 2009).
- Treatment of Criminal Suspects
The treatment of criminal suspects was alluded to earlier in this piece, but to be frank, the treatment of criminal suspects in China is horrendously terrible. Chinese citizens are afforded almost no protections under the law, and levels of corruption are so high that it is nearly impossible to get a fair trial from anywhere within China. Sometimes China caves to international pressure and does not prosecute foreigners for behavior that would land their own citizenry in jail, but China’s protection for foreign nationals is slim at best, and nonexistent at worst (Fleay 2012).
If a criminal were to be arrested for a violent assault, who that person was assaulting would matter greatly. In China, instances of domestic violence are still seen as family issues, and many courts are unwilling to get involved with these types of issues for fear of interrupting the family dynamic (Fleay 2012). This also applies to the earlier instance of the woman who was stripped naked and beaten. However, beating up a high-ranking official or a foreigner could cause a criminal to be made into an example-- he or she could receive a serious sentence for something that no one else has been arrested for in recent memory (Fleay 2012).
- Similarities and Differences between the United States and China
The Chinese criminal justice system is still very much in development. Although the American criminal justice system is often biased and leaves much to be desired, there is significantly less corruption present in the American criminal justice system than in the Chinese criminal justice system. Objectively, the American system is better: it is more reliable, less corrupt, and metes out justice much more effectively. The Chinese system is full of red tape and corruption, and there is no recourse for individuals who run afoul of the system. Again, the American system is not perfect-- far from it-- but it is a system that affords some protections to the individual, where the Chinese system is very dependent upon politics. Although police in the United States have a tendency to act like thugs-- this has been in the news lately-- the police in China act more like Orwellian thought police, cracking down on every instance of errant thought that they perceive in the populace.
Elgot, J. (2014). Van Driver Who Killed Chinese Toddler, Ignored By Pedestrians, Is Jailed. Retrieved 11 December 2014, from http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/09/06/chinese-toddler-hit-run-foshan-van-jailed_n_1860228.html
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