Errata and Clarifications

Revised February 19, 2022

If you find additional errors in the book, please contact me so I can add them to this list.


Page 54, Footnote 9

“This judicial interpretation” refers not to the 2015 Interpretations of the SPC on the Application of the Civil Procedure Law (最高人民法院关于适用〈中华人民共和国民事诉讼法〉的解释) but rather to the 2001 Several Provisions of the Supreme People’s Court Concerning Civil Procedure Evidence (关于民事诉讼证据的若干规定).

Justifiable Self-Defense

The concept of justifiable self-defense in Chapter 9 refers to the Chinese terms 正当防卫 and 防卫过当. To be clear, 正当防卫 means justifiable self-defense and 防卫过当 means imperfect (or excessive or extreme) self-defense. I lumped them together because a determination of either type of self-defense reflects a court’s recognition of the legitimacy and necessity of self-defense. Imperfect self-defense means excessive force in response to genuine physical danger that could have been met with less force. In other words, imperfect self-defense means an overreaction to a dangerous situation that merited some measure of self-defense. The 2015 Opinions of the Supreme People’s Court Concerning the Handling of Criminal Domestic Violence Cases in Accordance with the Law defines imperfect self-defense as violent actions made in self-defense that result in major injury or death and that exceeded the bounds of necessity (Article 19). It also explains that justifiable self-defense removes criminal liability and that imperfect self-defense should result in mitigated criminal sentencing as per Article 20 of the Criminal Law. A holding of justifiable-self defense therefore legally necessitates an acquittal. My failure to find any acquittals in cases of women prosecuted for killing their abusive husbands suggests that courts rarely if ever affirm justifiable self-defense in such cases. My statement on the very top of p.368 that “courts sometimes – but far from consistently – affirmed justifiable self-defense” reflects my inclusion of imperfect self-defense in a broader conception of justifiable self-defense. After all, even a determination of imperfect self-defense is a court’s recognition that self-defense – albeit less of it – was justified. Courts rarely if ever affirm the narrower conception of justifiable self-defense. However, courts sometimes but far from often do affirm imperfect self-defense. Indeed, according to many Chinese legal scholars, an affirmation of imperfect self-defense is about as much as women prosecuted for killing their abusers can hope for insofar as it calls for sentencing leniency. For this reason, defense lawyers often argue that their clients committed imperfect self-defense.

p.359: The text of the original Chinese-language court decisions from which I quoted “her actions constituted justifiable self-defense” and “Although the court rejected her defense lawyers’ request for probation, it affirmed Xu’s justifiable self-defense” refers to “imperfect self-defense” (防卫过当). The court decision states: “The court holds that, although the victim’s death was accidental, when defendant Xu X, owing to a domestic matter, wielded a knife causing physical injury and resulting in death, her action of stabbing with a knife was intentional. The court supports the public procuratorial organ’s charge of intentional homicide. Because, when her husband was beating her, the defendant wielded a knife causing physical harm and resulting in death, her action constitutes imperfect self-defense. Therefore, the court accepts the argument made by both the public procurator and the defense that the defendant should receive a mitigated sentence on the basis of imperfect self-defense but does not support the defense’s recommendation of probation, which is obviously inappropriate.”

Murder, Homicide, and Manslaughter

In Chapter 9, I use the words “murder” and “homicide” interchangeably. In China’s Criminal Law, homicide is always intentional (“intentional killing” or 故意杀人). China’s Criminal Law also includes the crimes of “intentional injury resulting in death” (故意伤害,致人死亡) and “accidental killing” (过失致人死亡), both of which are analogous to the crime of “manslaughter” in other legal contexts. In each of the two cases discussed on page 359 as well as the case of Qu Zhenmei, the court found the defendant guilty of the procurator’s criminal charge of “intentional injury resulting in death” on the basis of imperfect self-defense (防卫过当). For this reason, at the top of page 359, “the homicide case of Xu Ping” should have appeared as “the manslaughter case of Xu Ping.” This was the only case of “intentional injury resulting in death” involving domestic violence that I found in both of my provincial samples. Criminal domestic violence cases of “accidental killing” are similarly scarce. Among the very few such cases I found in my samples, the defendants were all men who killed their wives during incidents of abuse. See, for example, Decision #824524, Anyang Municipal Yindu District People’s Court, Henan Province, August 16, 2012, (2012)殷刑初字第50号, archived at