The Politics of Law and Stability in China
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The Politics of Law and Stability in China

Edited by Susan Trevaskes, Elisa Nesossi, Flora Sapio and Sarah Biddulph

The Politics of Law and Stability in China examines the nexus between social stability and the law in contemporary China. It explores the impact of Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) rationales for social stability on legal reforms, criminal justice operations and handling of disputes and social unrest inside and outside China’s justice agencies.
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Chapter 11: Detention, stability and ‘social management innovation’

Elisa Nesossi


Since 2009, pre-trial detention institutions have appeared in the official and scholarly reformist discourse, opening up one of the last bastions of secrecy in the Chinese criminal justice system.Before then, under the strict control of the public security authorities, pre-trial detention facilities were rarely the object of external scrutiny and were surrounded by an epistemically almost impenetrable wall. Discussions about amendment of the 1996 Criminal Procedure Law (CPL) addressed specific aspects of the legislation that could be improved during the pre-trial stage of proceedings. However, the discussions did not tackle directly the issue of pre-trial institutions, thus avoiding any direct challenges to the Ministry of Public Security (MPS) administering them (Nesossi 2008). This meant that while there could be public debate about the legislation – except where it concerns local regulations on detention centres, which are still treated as mainly internal matters open only to an inner core of the politico-legal circle (neibu) – the institutional and structural arrangements of these facilities could not be questioned. This situation seems to have changed dramatically. A neglected area for a long time, pre-trial detention institutions quickly hit the headlines of national media after being finally nudged into China’s official discourse in 2009. In February of that year, media reportage on the ‘duo mao mao’ (hide and seek) accident involving the death of young Li Qiaoming in the Jinning detention centre in Yunnan Province projected the problems of criminal detention centres into the spotlight.

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