Focal Points, Dissident Calendars, and Preemptive Repression
35 Pages Posted: 2 Jul 2016
Date Written: June 29, 2016
This paper develops and tests a theory that explains temporal variation in repression as a function of the "dissident calendar," the set of events that serve as natural focal points for coordination. The core argument is that regimes can anticipate the events that create these focal points and engage in preemptive repression to survive their passing. This dynamic produces predictable, often cyclical patterns in repression. An analysis of dissident detentions in China from 1998 to 2014 shows that "focal events" alone appear to be responsible for more than 20% of dissident detentions over the analysis period. Such detentions tend to be shorter and rely less on formal criminal procedures, suggesting a "catch-and-release" dynamic. Additional analyses of detentions in Tibet shows how the calendar may vary by issue or group.
Keywords: Repression, detention, focal point, dissidents, authoritarian, collective action, human rights, China, Tibet
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