Crime: 'You Die, I Live.' (China Is Waging a Brutal Crackdown on Criminals in Response to the Rising Crime rate)(Brief Article)

Newsweek, July 22, 1996 | Go to article overview

Crime: 'You Die, I Live.' (China Is Waging a Brutal Crackdown on Criminals in Response to the Rising Crime rate)(Brief Article)


IN BEIJING, Ll PEIYAO, A VICE CHAIRMAN of China's Parliament, is stabbed to death and dismembered by a larcenous police guard who had been posted outside his home. In Shanghai, a peasant laborer burgles a house and strangles the owner's daughter. in Zhongshan, a bank robber shoots a taxi driver and three women tellers to death. Crime seems to be almost out of control in China these days, but so does the criminal-justice system. Mass trials are a fixture on TV news, showing prisoners bound with rope, their heads bowed. Group executions are on the rise, and capital punishment is imposed not just for murder but for other offenses, such as rape or drug trafficking--and, in one case, forging tax receipts. Justice is swift and brutal. The Zhongshan bank robber was arrested, tried, convicted and executed within 15 days of his crime.

More than 1,000 criminals have been put to death since April 28 as part of an anticrime campaign called Strike Hard. Trials are a bare formality, the verdict usually foreordained. Groups of convicted criminals are paraded before a "mass sentencing rally" in a public place. Then they are taken to a vacant field, where they kneel in neat rows and are shot in the head. Relatives often are required to pay for the bullets.

Nobody disputes that China is weathering an unprecedented storm of lawlessness. Crime rates have been climbing by an estimated 10 percent a year since the early 1980s. Economic reforms have widened the income gap, creating both a middle class with money and an underclass of the newly poor. …

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