Provides the first in-depth examination of what Chinese netizens think about various death sentences and executions in China.

Table of contents

Chapter 1. Study Chinese Public Opinion on Capital Punishment in a New Environment
Chapter 2. Diversity of Netizens’ Opinions: What Were Commented by Netizens?
Chapter 3. Rationales of Netizens’ Decisions: Why do They Support or Reject Death Sentences?
Chapter 4. Interactions: How do Netizens Respond to Each Other?
Chapter 5. Variances of Netizens’ Opinions: Crime Types, Defendants and Victims, Legal Procedure, and Media Reporting
Chapter 6. Criminal Justice System and its Professionals in the Eyes of Netizens
Chapter 7. Social, Systemic, and Structural Problems: How Are Netizens’ Opinions Embedded within the Framework of Contemporary Chinese Society?
Chapter 8. Netizens’ Discussion of Death Sentences: Rationality or Irrationality?
Chapter 9. Lin Senhao Case: A Live Debate of Life or Death
Chapter 10. Public Opinion in A Unique Form
Appendix 1. List and Summary of All Cases
Appendix 2. List of officially-charged crimes and number of offenders being charged
Appendix 3. List of total numbers of netizens’ comments, reply comments and use of foul language
Appendix 4. Basic reporting statistics by cases
Appendix 5. A Select List of Foul Words


Few social issues have received more public attention and scholarly debate than the death penalty. While the abolitionist movement has made a successful stride in recent decades, a small number of countries remain committed to the death penalty and impose it with a relatively high frequency. In this regard, the People’s Republic of China no doubt leads the world in both numbers of death sentences and executions. Despite being the largest user of the death penalty, China has never conducted a national poll on citizens’ opinions toward capital punishment, while claiming “overwhelming public support” as a major justification for its retention and use.
Based on a content analysis of 38,512 comments collected from 63 cases in 2015, this study examines the diversity and rationales of netizens’ opinions of and interactions with China’s criminal justice system. In addition, the book discusses China’s social, systemic, and structural problems and critically examines the rationality of netizens’ opinions based on Habermas’s communicative rationality framework. Readers will be able to contextualize Chinese netizens’ discussions and draw conclusions about commonalities and uniqueness of China’s death penalty practice.

Bin Liang is Professor of Sociology at Oklahoma State University.

Jianhong Liu is Distinguished Professor of Law at University of Macau.

Winner: Association of Chinese Professors of Social Sciences In the United States (ACPSS) 2022 Best Scholarly Publication Award

- ACPSS Best Scholarly Publication Award

Winner: The Asian Criminological Society (ACS) 2022 Distinguished Book Award 

- ACS Distinguished Book Award

Chinese Netizens’ Opinions on Death Sentences produces a lively and nuanced analysis of views on the death penalty among citizens who choose to engage in internet fora in response to cases reported in the mainstream and other media. The data collected is rich and thorough, the authors present it in an engaging and sometimes provocative way.”
—Carolyn Hoyle, University of Oxford

- Carolyn Hoyle

“An important contribution to our understanding of public attitudes toward death penalty in a complex social environment. The authors’ detailed content analysis of textual opinion data, plus the extensive discussions will be useful to anyone seeking answers about what a public opinion really means in the context of criminal justice. It provides not only an important study of its subject, but it is also an excellent work on public opinion more broadly.”
—Hongming Cheng, University of Saskatchewan

- Hongming Cheng

"Chinese Netizens’ Opinions on Death Sentences fills this gap in the literature, and it is the most important book surveying public punitive attitudes in China to have been published in recent years. .... It will be beneficial to anyone interested in the Chinese legal system and public opinion, and it is especially useful for introductory readers." 
The China Quarterly 

- Zhuang Liu

Read: Book feature on University of Oxford Law Research Blog | 01/11/2022