Police interview of suspects in China: Developments and analyses

AuthorChing-Yu Huang,Fanjing Zeng,Ray Bull
Date01 March 2021
Publication Date01 March 2021
SubjectOriginal Research Articles
Original Research Article
Police interview of suspects in China:
Developments and analyses
Fanjing Zeng
School of International Studies, People’s Public Security University of China, China
Ching-Yu Huang
School of Psychology, Keele University, UK
Ray Bull
Department of Law, Criminology and Social Sciences, University of Derby, UK
This article investigates the power dynamics in police interviews with suspects in China by examining a real-life sample. It
first overviews some recent developments and legislation in China regarding police interviewing of suspects, followed by
outlining the linguistic and psychological research upon which the analyses are based. The interviews are examined using
critical discourse analysis that reveals the high-power position of the Chinese police in suspect interviews. However, the
large proportion of open questions found in the interviews is encouraging, as this suggests that regulations outlawing use
of evidence obtained by torture or other illegal means are taking effect. This article is the first to empirically examine
actual Chinese police interviews with suspects, providing valuable insights for theories and practice.
Forensic linguistics, investigative interviewing, police interrogation, China, suspect interview
Submitted 25 Jul 2019, Revise received 26 Mar 2020, accepted 02 Apr 2020
In light of psychological research a growing number of
countries/organisations have decided to adopt a non-
coercive method of interviewing suspects. Indeed, in
2016, the United Nation’s ‘Special Rapporteur on torture
and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or pun-
ishment’ (law professor Juan E. Mendez) submitted his
report which was then transmitted by the United Nations
(UN) Secretary-General to the UN General Assembly
In report summary stated that,
The Special Rapporteur ...advocates the development of a
universal protocol identifying a set of standards for non-
coercive interviewing methods and procedural safeguards that
ought, as a matter of law and policy, to be applied at a mini-
mum to all interviews by law enforcement officials, military
and intelligence personnel and other bodies with investigative
When mentioning this ‘universal protocol’ the UN Special
Rapporteur noted that ‘Encouragingly, some States have
moved away from accusatorial, manipulative and
confession-driven interviewing models with a view to
increasing accurate and reliable information and minimiz-
ing the risks of unreliable information and miscarriages
of justice’ and that ‘The essence of an alternative
information-gathering model was first captured by the
PEACE model of interviewing adopted in 1992 in England
Corresponding author:
Ching-Yu Huang, School of Psychology, Keele University, Keele ST5 5BG,
Email: soarhuang@gmail.com/ c.s.huang@keele.ac.uk
International Journalof
Police Science & Management
2021, Vol. 23(1) 29–41
ªThe Author(s) 2020
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/1461355720947548

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