Research into Public Preferences about Chinese Criminal Law

Social Sciences in China (Chinese Edition)

No.1, 2017


Research into Public Preferences about Chinese Criminal Law



Bai Jianjun


Do the public prefer a more or less severe criminal law? And how is the relationship between criminal law and public opinion to be handled? These are questions that criminal law cannot evade. As a part of the China Family Panel Studies (CFPS) Program at Peking University, empirical research using data from more than 30,000 samples has found that the Chinese preference coefficient in criminal law is 0.36, below the midline between 0 and 1. This indicates that the evidence from the study of a large sample does not support the theory that the Chinese populace universally prefers severe criminal law; the experience of traditional crime victims does not have a marked effect on criminal law preferences; and such preferences are a distorted reflection of various social factors. We need to adopt an extremely calm and cautious attitude towards public opinion on individual cases, moderate our response to the public’s preferences, and remain alert to the excessive socialization of criminal law and the tendency to “inflate” criminal law sources. Whether criminal law legislation or administration actively responds to a particular public preference should depend on consideration of three factors: representativeness, retrospective causality, and legality. Only then, after considering the three factors listed above, should a decision be taken on whether and in what way a response should be made.