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Unruly PeopleCrime, Community, and State in Late Imperial South China$
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Robert J. Antony

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9789888208951

Published to Hong Kong Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.5790/hongkong/9789888208951.001.0001

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Community Security and Self-Defense

Community Security and Self-Defense

(p.80) Five Community Security and Self-Defense
Unruly People

Robert J. Antony

Hong Kong University Press

Chapter 5 analyzes local self-regulation and law enforcement efforts. In conjunction with government, local communities also devised various methods for their own security and self-defense. Despite the state’s efforts and accomplishments in reaching down into local communities, the countryside was too vast and populous for state agents to penetrate everywhere. Normally the government preferred not to intervene directly in local affairs, but rather, to do so only indirectly through community lecture (xiangyue) and mutual surveillance (baojia) agents. Occasionally, in times of crises, the state would intervene more directly, such as in cases of famine relief and the suppression of riots and rebellions, but more routine security matters were normally left to each individual community. Rural towns and villages adopted a number of strategies for self-protection against bandits, including walls and other fortifications, guardsmen units, crop-watching associations, and militia. Nonetheless, I also argue that there was a complicated mix of activities in local communities involving both protection and predation.

Keywords:   South China, Crime, Qing Dynasty, Guangdong, Poverty, Social dysfunction, Criminal law, Law enforcement, State, Local

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