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Group position, consciousness and perception of police fairness among urban residents in China

Yuning Wu (Department of Criminal Justice, Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan, USA)
Ivan Sun (Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice, University of Delaware, Newark, Delaware, USA)
Feng Li (Department of Sociology, East China University of Political Science and Law, Shanghai, China)
Siyu Liu (School of Public Affairs, Penn State Harrisburg, Middletown, Pennsylvania, USA)

Policing: An International Journal

ISSN: 1363-951X

Article publication date: 1 March 2019

Issue publication date: 22 July 2019




The purpose of this paper is to assess the importance of group position and consciousness in predicting people’s perceptions of police fairness in China.


This study used survey data collected from 1,095 respondents in Shanghai. Multivariate regression was used to analyze the effects of group positions and group consciousness variables on perceived police fairness, controlling for personal, experiential and neighborhood factors.


Regardless of their own hukou status, individuals who live in high migrant areas expressed less favorable attitudes toward police fairness. Meanwhile, people who displayed greater degrees of sensitivity to bias in law rated police fairness less favorably, whereas people who expressed higher levels of moral alignment with the law and belief in no choice but to obey the police rated police fairness more favorably. Lower levels of neighborhood disorder and higher degrees of cohesion were also associated with more positive evaluations of police fairness.

Research limitations/implications

The authors’ measure of migrant concentration was constructed based on respondents’ own assessments of this neighborhood feature. Future studies should consider using objective measures to supplement the construction of migrant concentration variables. The authors’ group consciousness variables are limited as they are general, non-residential status specific and only capture part of the traditionally conceptualized variable of group consciousness. Future study should employ better-worded items that can tap precisely into people’s various dimensions of social consciousness based on their group status.

Practical implications

Training officers has to give a high priority to the principles of both procedural and distributive justice, and implement performance and evaluation policies that support fair and responsive police behavior, particularly during situations where citizens report crime to and seek help from the police.


Despite their high relevance, variables reflecting group position have received marginal attention in previous research on public evaluations of the police in China. This study represents a first attempt to examine how the interactions between residence status and the level of neighborhood migrant concentration influence Chinese attitudes toward police fairness.



Wu, Y., Sun, I., Li, F. and Liu, S. (2019), "Group position, consciousness and perception of police fairness among urban residents in China", Policing: An International Journal, Vol. 42 No. 4, pp. 640-653.



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