Reductions considered for capital punishment in China

Reductions considered for capital punishment in China
Li Fei, deputy general secretary of the National People's Congress.

Draft amendment under discussion drawn up to implement reform blueprint China's top legislature is considering reducing by nine the number of crimes subject to the death penalty through revising the Criminal Law.

Among the nine crimes mentioned in a draft amendment being discussed at a session that started on Monday, five relate to economic misbehavior.

They are smuggling weapons and ammunition, smuggling nuclear materials, smuggling fake banknotes, counterfeiting banknotes and collecting funds through fraud. The crimes of organising prostitutes, forcing prostitution, hindering the enforcement of military duties, and spreading rumours during wartime would also not be subject to the death penalty, according to the draft.

The Standing Committee of the National People's Congress is due to deliberate on the bill during its bi-monthly session from Monday to Saturday.

According to the bill, if prisoners sentenced to the death penalty with a reprieve are found to have "gravely" violated the law during the reprieve period, they could be executed after a review by the top court.

Under current rules, if prisoners given the death penalty with a reprieve are found to have violated the law during the reprieve period, whether the violation is grave or not, they can be executed after a review by the top court.

Under China's laws, all death penalties have to undergo a review by the Supreme People's Court, the top court.

There have been few cases involving any of the nine crimes resulting in the death penalty being handed down in recent years, said Li Shishi, director of the Legislative Affairs Commission of the NPC Standing Committee.

After canceling the death penalty for the nine crimes, those who have gravely violated the rules could be sentenced to life imprisonment, Li told the lawmakers on Monday.

Under the current law, 55 crimes are subject to the death penalty. The last time China reduced the number of crimes punishable by death was in 2011.

At the time, the legislature adopted an amendment to the Criminal Law, reducing the number of crimes subject to capital punishment by 13 - the first reduction since the Criminal Law took effect in 1979.

Li said that after the reduction in 2011, social order had not been affected significantly and positive comments had been made by the public about the revision.

He said the draft amendment now under discussion has been drawn up to implement the reform blueprint released in November last year after a key meeting of the Communist Party of China.

A statement issued after the 3rd Plenary Session of the 18th Communist Party of China Central Committee, the meeting that put forward the comprehensive reform package, said China would reduce the number of crimes subject to the death penalty "step by step".

Zhao Bingzhi, a professor of criminal law research at Beijing Normal University, said that reducing the number of crimes subject to capital punishment is a move to protect human rights, which is also the requirement of ongoing judicial reform.

More than 30 of the 55 crimes subject to the death penalty are related to non-violent or economic crimes, and many of these should be commuted gradually, he said.

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