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Thomas Worger

Tom Worger 2014-15 Peterson Fellow

Thomas Worger is a joint degree student in History (PhD) and Law (JD) at University of California, Irvine. Before attending UCI, he received his BA in History from University of California, San Diego, in 2007 and his MA in East Asian Languages and Cultures from Columbia University in 2010. Thomas's current research focuses on legal reform and the role of legal institutions in China during the twentieth century.

In the wake of the 2009 Xinjiang riots between Uyghur minority and Han majority groups, Chinese social media websites were quickly populated with pro-Han comments blaming the state's preferential policies for ethnic minorities as the cause of the violence. Principal among these complaints was the "two restraints, one leniency" policy. Announced in the context of the country's "strike hard" campaign against crime in the mid-1980s, the intent of the policy was to account for traditional cultural practices of ethnic minority groups in the course of criminal prosecutions, and consequently treat them with greater leniency. In recent years, the policy has expanded in public perception to equate with a get out of jail free card for members of China's ethnic minority groups, fueling tensions. This project investigates the origin, practice, and public perception of the "two restraints, one leniency" policy. Eschewing traditional approaches to similar "affirmative action" policies as civil rights matters, this project views the dynamic relationship between minority groups and the state, and the way this relationship is reimagined in online discourse, through the lens of colonial studies.