Wrongful Convictions with Chinese Characteristics
Economics of Transition and Institutional Change
41 Pages Posted: 20 Jun 2022 Last revised: 21 Jul 2023
Date Written: June 14, 2022
This paper investigates how the imbalanced judiciary affects the generation and correction of wrongful convictions in China. We focus on the role of the Political and Legal Affairs Commissions, which are tasked by the Communist Party to control judicial authorities. Based on 335 wrongful convictions during 1990-2010, we find that if secretaries of provincial PLACs held office as chiefs of police, more wrongful convictions would be made. The mechanism is that this arrangement destroys checks between judicial authorities, and we discover that a province would prosecute 251 additional people under it. In 81% of our sample, the correction of a wrongful conviction came after the secretary of the provincial PLAC, who had oversight of the court that handed down the sentence, was no longer in office. Furthermore, even after the culpable PLAC secretaries left their spots, if successors used to be their subordinates, wrongful convictions were still less likely to be reversed. Our findings provide persuasive evidence in favor of judicial independence.
Keywords: Wrongful Convictions; Judicial Independence, the Political and Legal Affairs Commission; China
JEL Classification: K14, K42, P26, P37
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation