Taiwan's justice minister voices support for the death penalty to be repealed

TAIPEI, Taiwan - Justice Minister Luo Ying-shay yesterday voiced her support for repealing the death penalty in Taiwan, roughly six months after five death-row inmates were executed after she assumed her post.

Luo made the remarks in an interview before the Legislature reviewed the Ministry of Justice's (MOJ) national budget yesterday. As a government official, one should listen to the public's opinion instead of acting on one's own opinions, Luo said. "But as a Buddhist, I hope that ultimately the death penalty will be repealed in Taiwan."

The calls to repeal the death penalty have always been loud, but public surveys show that 76 to 80 per cent of people continue to support the death penalty. The minority's voice has grown louder while the majority's is not being heard, and the MOJ is at a stalemate as it is expected to amend the law," said Luo.

After Tseng Wen-chin, who stabbed a child to death in a video arcade in 2012, was handed a life sentence instead of death penalty in both his first and second verdicts, the controversy of whether the death penalty should be repealed was once again brought into the limelight.

Tseng claimed that he killed because he knew "one will not be put to death for killing one or two people in Taiwan," and that at the most he would face a lifetime behind bars with a full belly. Public uproar followed after the second ruling, as Tseng was still allowed to live as he had a "lower than normal IQ and that there is still room for reform," according to the presiding judge.

Death Penalties Carried Out Despite Buddhist Beliefs

Luo drew criticism from anti-death-penalty groups for ordering her first batch of executions in April. The MOJ reported that inmates were anaesthetized before being shot, with another 47 waiting on death row. Defending the European Union's express of "regret" over the five executions, the MOJ stated that the inmates were "cold-blooded, cruel and devoid of conscience; leaving the families of the victims in unbelievable pain."

"I regret the latest set of five executions which took place in Taiwan on 29 April 2014," Catherine Ashton, the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs said after the executions.

Taiwan resumed carrying out executions in 2010 after a five-year pause. There were four executions in 2010, five in 2011 and six in both 2012 and 2013.