This far, the lack of a uniform set of standards to guide the courts in sentencing has resulted in several claims that people’s court sentences were too severe. Such claims have been made by 80% of those who filed petitions against judgements from criminal courts.
In the US legal system and in the legal systems of EU member states sentencing outcomes are affected by the race of the defendant.
It would be very interesting to know which variables affect sentencing outcomes in China (the political sensitivity of some cases apart). There are some clues that the problem may be big. In Jiangyan (Jiangsu province) disparity in sentencing is said to affect 80% of criminal cases. The adoption of sentencing guidelines was also among the goals of the Second Five Year Reform Programme for the People’s Courts (2004-2008)人民法院第二个五年改革纲要(2004-2008) [read Don Clarke’s post on the Five Year Reform Programme].