Liu Jianhong, UM scholar: ‘There is much to be done to make criminology more useful to Macau’

Professor Liu Jianhong, a criminology scholar at the University of Macau won the Freda Adler Distinguished Scholar Award in August from the American Society of Criminology (ASC), for his “outstanding contributions” to the field.
Liu is renowned within his field and has served as the leader of several international criminology associations. He is also the editor-in-chief of the Asian Journal of Criminology and has published more than 20 books, 30 book chapters and nearly 60 journal articles. He is responsible for proposing the “Asian Paradigm and Relationism Justice Theory”, which provides theoretical support for the development of the field in Asia.
The professor, who is due to formally receive his award in November at the annual ASC conference, sat down with the Times to talk about the importance of his field of study in improving Macau’s ability to deal with crime, and why the current justice system may need to be rethought.

Macau Daily Times (MDT) – What does winning the Freda Adler award mean to you?
Liu Jianhong (LJ) – The award is named after a very famous criminologist, Freda Adler, and is granted to people for distinguished contributions to criminology. It’s very rare for the award to be given to someone in Asia. It’s a great honor for me to receive it, but also a great honor for the University of Macau and for [the city of] Macau.
MDT – What is your specific area of interest and your contribution that led to you receiving the award?
LJ – I specialize in international and comparative criminology; in particular I undertake studies comparing the West to Asia and specifically China.
We are trying to test whether theories [of criminology] produced by Western scholars are applicable to Asian countries, like China. My research finds that the culture and social organization is very different; in Europe and the U.S. there is an emphasis on individualism, whereas Asia tends toward collectivism.
Based on those differences, [Westerners and Asians] have different understandings of how the justice system should work. Right now, Asia still borrows a lot of their systems from the West as they [such systems] are generally more advanced. There are many differences [between East and West], which are perhaps overlooked due to the dominance of the Western justice systems.
[Macau] is a good place for my research given the legacy of the Portuguese administration and the [geographical and cultural] proximity of China.

MDT – Are there many people working in the police force and other relevant areas in Macau with a background in criminology education?
LJ – There was no [study of] criminology before I came to Macau. I was invited to build a program here and I felt it was a good opportunity. Now the program is in its seventh year and has become very prestigious.
Some of my students are now working as correctional officers in the prison or serving in the police force. However, I believe that we need more criminologists working in these roles. There is much to be done to make criminology more useful for Macau.

MDT – What do you make of the reports that show crime is falling, but gaming-related crime is on the rise?
LJ – Most likely crime, especially violent crime, is decreasing – that’s what the statistics show. But we need to use more [fact-based] methodology to more accurately collect [information on]the volume of crime. The decisions that we make [regarding crime] are based on feelings rather than scientific analysis. [To this end] I am hoping to develop a closer relationship with Macau’s criminal justice system so that we can get access to more information. Right now, we just have access to public police and court records – but many crimes are not even reported. It is highly likely that when the gaming downturn hit, crime in casinos increased. If we see the opportunities for committing crime increase, then there tends to be an increase in crime.

MDT – Can Macau become a model for countries developing casino industries in how to deal with gaming crime?
LJ – Yes, certainly there can be a specialization [here in Macau] based on our comparative advantages to other nearby places where gaming is fast developing. There is always a way to better position our [expertise] to take advantage of our strengths.