A police state describes a state whose government institutions exercise an extreme level of control over civil society and liberties. There is typically little or no distinction between the law and the exercise of political power by the executive, and the deployment of internal security and police forces play a heightened role in governance. A police state is a characteristic of authoritarian, totalitarian or illiberal regimes (contrary to a liberal democratic regime). Such governments are typically one-party states, but police-state-level control may emerge in multi-party systems as well.

Originally, a police state was a state regulated by a civil administration, but since the beginning of the 20th century it has "taken on an emotional and derogatory meaning" by describing an undesirable state of living characterized by the overbearing presence of civil authorities.[1] The inhabitants of a police state may experience restrictions on their mobility, or on their freedom to express or communicate political or other views, which are subject to police monitoring or enforcement. Political control may be exerted by means of a secret police force that operates outside the boundaries normally imposed by a constitutional state.[2] Robert von Mohl, who first introduced the rule of law to German jurisprudence, contrasted the Rechtsstaat ("legal" or "constitutional" state) with the anti-aristocratic Polizeistaat ("police state").[3]

History of usage Edit

The Oxford English Dictionary traces the phrase "police state" back to 1851, when it was used in reference to the use of a national police force to maintain order in the Austrian Empire.[4] The German term Polizeistaat came into English usage in the 1930s with reference to totalitarian governments that had begun to emerge in Europe.[5]

Because there are different political perspectives as to what an appropriate balance is between individual freedom and national security, there are no objective standards defining a police state.[citation needed] This concept can be viewed as a balance or scale. Along this spectrum, any law that has the effect of removing liberty is seen as moving towards a police state while any law that limits government oversight of the populace is seen as moving towards a free state.[6]

An electronic police state is one in which the government aggressively uses electronic technologies to record, organize, search and distribute forensic evidence against its citizens.[7][8]

Examples of states with related attributes Edit

Demonstration in Amsterdam against the police state (politie staat) in Portuguese Angola
"No to police state" banner in Ukraine

Early forms of police states can be found in ancient China. During the rule King Li of Zhou in the 9th century BC, there was strict censorship, extensive state surveillance, and frequent executions of those who were perceived to be speaking against the regime. During this reign of terror, ordinary people did not dare to speak to each other on the street, and only made eye contacts with friends as a greeting, hence known as '道路以目'. Subsequently, during the short-lived Qin Dynasty, the police state became far more wide-reaching than its predecessors. In addition to strict censorship and the burning of all political and philosophical books, the state implemented strict control over its population by using collective executions and by disarming the population. Residents were grouped into units of 10 households, with weapons being strictly prohibited, and only one kitchen knife was allowed for 10 households. Spying and snitching was in common place, and failure to report any anti-regime activities was treated the same as if the person participated in it. If one person committed any crime against the regime, all 10 households would be executed.

Some have characterised the rule of King Henry VIII during the Tudor period as a police state.[9][10] The Oprichnina established by Tsar Ivan IV within the Russian Tsardom in 1565 functioned as a predecessor to the modern police state, featuring persecutions and autocratic rule.[11][12]

USSR was described as the largest police state in history; modern-day Russia[13][14] and Belarus are often described as police states.[15][16]

Nazi Germany emerged from an originally democratic government, yet gradually exerted more and more repressive controls over its people in the lead-up to World War II. In addition to the SS and the Gestapo, the Nazi police state used the judiciary to assert control over the population from the 1930s until the end of the war in 1945.[17]

During the period of apartheid, South Africa maintained police-state attributes such as banning people and organizations, arresting political prisoners, maintaining segregated living communities and restricting movement and access.[18]

Augusto Pinochet's Chile operated as a police state,[19] exhibiting "repression of public liberties, the elimination of political exchange, limiting freedom of speech, abolishing the right to strike, freezing wages".[20]

The Republic of Cuba under President (and later right-wing dictator) Fulgencio Batista was an authoritarian police state until his overthrow during the Cuban Revolution in 1959 with the rise to power of Fidel Castro and foundation of a Marxist-Leninist republic.[21][22][23][24]

General Hafez al-Assad constructed a coup-proof police state in Ba'athist Syria to consolidate his dictatorship during the 1970s

Following the failed July 1958 Haitian coup d'état attempt to overthrow the president, Haiti descended into an autocratic and despotic family dictatorship under the Haitian Vodou black nationalist François Duvalier (Papa Doc) and his National Unity Party. In 1959, Papa Doc ordered the creation of Tonton Macoutes, a paramilitary force unit whom he authorized to commit systematic violence and human rights abuses to suppress political opposition, including an unknown number of murders, public executions, rapes, disappearances of and attacks on dissidents; an unrestrained state terrorism. In the 1964 Haitian constitutional referendum, he declared himself the president for life through a sham election. After Duvalier's death in 1971, his son Jean-Claude (Baby Doc) succeeded him as the next president for life, continuing the regime until the popular uprising that had him overthrown in February 1986.

Ba'athist Syria under the dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad has been described as the most "ruthless police state" in the Arab World; with a tight system of restrictions on the movement of civilians, independent journalists and other unauthorized individuals. Alongside North Korea and Eritrea, it operates one of the strictest censorship machines that regulate the transfer of information. The Syrian security apparatus was established in the 1970s by Hafez al-Assad who ran a military dictatorship; with Ba'ath party as its civilian cover to enforce the loyalty of Syrian populations to Assad family. The dreaded Mukhabarat was given free hand to terrorise, torture or murder non-compliant civilians; while public activities of any organized opposition was curbed down with the raw firepower of the army.[25][26]

The region of modern-day North Korea is claimed to have elements of a police state, from the Juche-style Silla kingdom,[27] to the imposition of a fascist police state by the Japanese,[27] to the totalitarian police state imposed and maintained by the Kim family.[28] Paris-based Reporters Without Borders has ranked North Korea last or second last in their test of press freedom since the Press Freedom Index's introduction,[when?] stating that the ruling Kim family control all of the media.[29][30]

In response to government proposals to enact new security measures to curb protests, the government of the Justice and Development Party has been accused of turning Turkey into a police state.[31] Since the 2013 Egyptian coup d'état, the military government of Egypt is said to have taken several steps to crack down on freedom of religion and expression with the intention of decreasing religious extremism,[32] leading to accusations that it has effectively become a "Revolutionary Police State".[33][34]

The dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos from the 1970s to early 1980s in the Philippines has many characteristics of a police state.[35][36]

Hong Kong is perceived to have implemented the tools of a police state after passing the National Security legislation in 2020, following repeated attempts by People's Republic of China to erode the rule of law in the former British colony.[37][38][39][40][41]

Following the Fall of Kabul and the 2021 Taliban offensive on 15 August 2021, The Supreme Leader under Hibatullah Akhundzada had transformed Afghanistan into a totalitarian police state when many or most Afghan citizens have started to dissappear for no apprent reason with human rights abuses to suppress political opposition, including an unknown number of murders, public executions, rape, banning women from jobs as well as education, attacking and arresting dissidents throughout Afghanistan including the capital Kabul according to the Taliban secret police.

Fictional police states Edit

Fictional police states have featured in media ranging from novels to films to video games. George Orwell's novel 1984 was described by The Encyclopedia of Police Science as "the definitive fictional treatment of a police state, which has also influenced contemporary usage of the term".[42]

Orwell's novel describes Britain under the totalitarian Oceanian regime that continuously invokes (and helps to cause) a perpetual war. This perpetual war is used as a pretext for subjecting the people to mass surveillance and invasive police searches. The novel has been described as "the definitive fictional treatment of a police state, which has also influenced contemporary usage of the term".[43]

See also Edit

References Edit

  1. ^ Tipton, Elise K. (17 December 2013). The Japanese Police State: Tokko in Interwar Japan. A&C Black. pp. 14–. ISBN 9781780939742. Retrieved 5 September 2014.
  2. ^ A Dictionary of World History, Market House Books, Oxford University Press, 2000.
  3. ^ The Police State, Chapman, B., Government and Opposition, Vol.3:4, 428–440, (2007). Accessible online at [1], retrieved 15 August 2008.
  4. ^ Oxford English Dictionary, Third edition, January 2009; online version November 2010. [2]; accessed 19 January 2011.[dead link]
  5. ^ Dubber, Markus Dirk; Valverde, Mariana (2006). The New Police Science: The Police Power in Domestic and International Governance. Stanford University Press. ISBN 978-0-8047-5392-0.
  6. ^ Police State (Key Concepts in Political Science), Brian Chapman, Macmillan, 1971.
  7. ^ "Police Checkpoints on the Information Highway", Computer underground Digest, Volume 6 : Issue 72 (14 August 1994), ISSN 1066-632X, "The so-called 'electronic frontier' is quickly turning into an electronic police state."
  8. ^ The Electronic Police State: 2008 National Rankings, by Jonathan Logan, Cryptohippie USA.
  9. ^ "Henry VIII: Henry the horrible". The Independent. 12 October 2003.
  10. ^ "Human truth in the Tudor police state". Financial Times. 28 September 2006.
  11. ^ Gella, Aleksander (1989). Development of Class Structure in Eastern Europe: Poland and Her Southern Neighbors. SUNY Press. p. 217. ISBN 9780887068331. Retrieved 20 August 2016. Oprichnina was originally a band of faithful servants organized by Ivan IV into a police force; they were used by the tsar to crush not only all boyars (Russian nobility) under suspicion, but also the Russian princes [...]. Oprichnina enabled the tsars to build the first police state in modem history.
  12. ^ Wilson, Colin (1964). Rasputin and the Fall of the Romanovs. New York, Farrar, Straus. p. 60. Retrieved 20 August 2016. [Ivan IV] established a political security force to run the Oprichina[sic], whose task was to spy on his enemies and destroy them; hence Ivan may be regarded as the inventor of the police state.
  13. ^ Taylor, Brian D. (18 May 2014). "From Police State to Police State? Legacies and Law Enforcement in Russia". In Beissinger, Mark; Kotkin, Stephen (eds.). Historical Legacies of Communism in Russia and Eastern Europe. Cambridge University Press. pp. 128–151. doi:10.1017/CBO9781107286191.007. ISBN 9781107054172.
  14. ^ "Russia's police state showed its real face in latest protest crackdown". New Eastern Europe - A bimonthly news magazine dedicated to Central and Eastern European affairs. 11 April 2021.
  15. ^ "Belarus: a police state in action". OSW Centre for Eastern Studies. 16 November 2020.
  16. ^ Higgins, Andrew; Santora, Marc (16 November 2021). "Cold and Marooned in a Police State as Desperation Takes Hold". The New York Times.
  17. ^ "SS Police State". U.S. Holocaust Museum. Retrieved 22 March 2014.
  18. ^ Cooper, Frederick (10 October 2002). Africa Since 1940: The Past of the Present. Cambridge University Press. pp. 149–. ISBN 9780521776004. Retrieved 22 March 2014.
  19. ^ Zwier, Paul J. (22 April 2013). Principled Negotiation and Mediation in the International Arena: Talking with Evil. Cambridge University Press. pp. 235–. ISBN 9781107026872. Retrieved 22 March 2014.
  20. ^ Casanova, Pablo González (1 January 1993). Latin America Today. United Nations University Press. pp. 233–. ISBN 9789280808193. Retrieved 22 March 2014.
  21. ^ Candelaria, Cordelia; García, Peter J.; Aldama, Arturo J. (2004). Encyclopedia of Latino Popular Culture. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 120–. ISBN 9780313332104. Retrieved 27 March 2014.
  22. ^ Bailey, Helen Miller; Cruz, Frank H. (1 January 1972). The Latin Americans: Past and Present. Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 9780395133736. Retrieved 27 March 2014.
  23. ^ Novas, Himilce (27 November 2007). Everything You Need to Know About Latino History: 2008 Edition. Penguin Group US. pp. 225–. ISBN 9781101213537. Retrieved 27 March 2014.
  24. ^ Paul H. Lewis. Authoritarian regimes in Latin America.
  25. ^ Bowen, Jeremy (2013). "Prologue: Before the Spring". The Arab Uprisings: The People Want the Fall of the Regime. Simon & Schuster. pp. 14, 15, 51, 118, 210–214, 336, 341. ISBN 9781471129827.
  26. ^ "RSF". RSF: Reporters Without Borders. Retrieved 7 May 2020.
  27. ^ a b Becker, Jasper (1 May 2005). Rogue Regime : Kim Jong Il and the Looming Threat of North Korea: Kim Jong Il and the Looming Threat of North Korea. Oxford University Press. pp. 74–. ISBN 9780198038108. Retrieved 22 March 2014.
  28. ^ Hixson, Walter L. (2008). The Myth of American Diplomacy: National Identity and U.S. Foreign Policy. Yale University Press. pp. 179–. ISBN 9780300150131. Retrieved 22 March 2014.
  29. ^ "North Korea Rated World's Worst Violator of Press Freedom". U.S. Department of State. 25 October 2006. Retrieved 23 July 2008.
  30. ^ "North Korea still one of the world's most repressive media environments".
  31. ^ "Critics: Proposed Legislation Turns Turkey Into Police State". VOA. Retrieved 7 June 2015.
  32. ^ "Egypt: The politics of reforming al-Azhar".
  33. ^ Khorshid, Sara (16 November 2014). "Egypt's New Police State". The New York Times. Retrieved 20 May 2016.
  34. ^ "Egypt: The Revolutionary Police State". Politico. Retrieved 20 May 2016.
  35. ^ "Marcos Orders Crackdown On Critics of Martial Law - The Washington Post". The Washington Post.
  36. ^ Karnow, Stanley (19 March 1989). "REAGAN AND THE PHILIPPINES: Setting Marcos Adrift". The New York Times.
  37. ^ Vines, Stephen (3 July 2021). "What's wrong with Hong Kong becoming a police state?". Hong Kong Free Press HKFP. Retrieved 2 June 2022.
  38. ^ Welle (www.dw.com), Deutsche. "Amnesty: Hong Kong on course to becoming 'police state' | DW | 30.06.2021". DW.COM. Retrieved 2 June 2022.
  39. ^ Rogers, Benedict (30 May 2022). "Hong Kong's thuggish new leader epitomises its descent into a police state". The Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 2 June 2022.
  40. ^ "Opinion: Make no mistake – this new security law turns Hong Kong into a Chinese police state". The Independent. 1 July 2020. Retrieved 2 June 2022.
  41. ^ "Hong Kong's New Police State". thediplomat.com. Retrieved 2 June 2022.
  42. ^ Greene, Jack R. (2007). The Encyclopedia of Police Science. Vol. 1 (3 ed.). Taylor & Francis. ISBN 978-0-415-97000-6.
  43. ^ The Encyclopedia of Police Science. CRC Press. 2007. p. 1004. ISBN 9780415970006.

External links Edit