Public sentencing rallies in China: The symbolizing of punishment and justice in a socialist state
This article explores the functions and format of the public sentencing rally in China. The public sentencing rally is a judicial event in which the verdict and sentence of a criminal case already decided in court is announced publicly,in a venue such as a stadium or auditorium. Sentencing rallies provide an important organizational and operational avenue through which communicative actions of blaming and shaming are constituted and relayed to their social audience. They can be convened for one individual or for a group of convicted criminals, usually those convicted of serious crimes, crimes that attract some public attention or crimes that are targeted during anti-crime campaigns. Their function is to educate and deter through a process of ritual and representation.They are a format in which the emotive representations of public shaming and gestures of moral indignation can be acted out. Rallies also represent to their social audience, a conceptual framework through which to interpret the characteristics of judicial authority in post-1978 China. This aspect of representation involves two types of authority, the moral authority of the court to mete out popular justice and the institutional authority of the court represented in the aspirational claims of institutional reform - procedural propriety, professionalism and the strict adherence to the law.
Crime, Law and Social Change