In Public or in Private: Repressing Dissidents in China
36 Pages Posted: 20 Sep 2017
Date Written: July 25, 2017
When do states repress in public and when do they do so private? I argue that states repress publicly when they believe that doing so will deter future dissidents from engaging in similar challenges against the state. By contrast, if the state believes that public repression is unlikely to deter future challengers, they prefer to repress in private. Leveraging a unique dataset on dissidents in China, I demonstrate the theory in action by showing that repression of political and welfare dissidents is more likely to occur publicly than is repression of religious and ethnic dissidents. The relationship is robust to regional and temporal controls as well as legal institutions. One implication of this study is that the public reputations associated with repressive regimes probably have more to do with the way regimes want to be perceived than with the actual levels of repression they engage in.
Keywords: China, Autocracy, Repression, Information, Signaling, Contentious Politics
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