Ethnic Discrimination in Criminal Sentencing in China

This project (joint with Rory Truex) presents the first analysis of ethnic bias in sentencing patterns in the People’s Republic of China, focusing on drug cases in Yunnan province. We posit the “problem minority” hypothesis, which holds that discrimination in an authoritarian system emerges when an ethnic group becomes associated with behavior that generates political instability.

On average, minority defendants in Yunnan have sentences that are about 1.5 to 8.0 months longer than Han defendants that have committed similar crimes. Further analysis of data from all provinces reveals that this bias is largest for groups heavily involved in the drug trade.

Sentencing is particularly harsh in autonomous counties and prefectures where minorities are concentrated. 112 words