Significance of China reducing scope of death penalty

17:36, August 27, 2010      

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The draft of the Eighth Amendment to the Criminal Law was submitted to the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress for review and approval on Aug. 23. This is the first ever large-scale revision of China's Criminal Law since 1997.

According to the draft, the death penalty for 13 economic and non-violent crimes that had been rarely applied over recent years will be dropped. However, the death penalty for non-violent economic crimes such as corruption and acceptance of bribes will not be abolished.

After a comprehensive revision of the Criminal Law in 1997, China successively passed one decision and seven amendments and continued to make adjustments and supplements.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao once said that China is pushing forward the reform of its judicial system, but cannot abolish the death penalty given its national situation. The conditions are not mature for removing the death penalty. Its removal for the crimes mentioned is seemingly a step forward for the abolition of the death penalty.

Globally, more and more countries have declared the abolition of the death penalty and the jurisprudential circle universally agree that abolishing the death penalty is one of the characteristics of a civilization under the rule of law. However, are the conditions in China mature enough for the abolition of the death penalty? What significance does the removal of the death penalty for 13 crimes have?

Teng Biao, a scholar at the China University of Political Science and Law, believes that the draft of the Eighth Amendment to the Criminal Law pending review and approval has made some progress in reducing the number of death crimes and the gross number of death penalties, which is in line with the overall trend for the development of a civilization under the rule of law.

Teng said public data on the actual number of annual death verdicts and executions in China is not available because of the restrictions on the disclosure of confidential information. However, domestic and foreign scholars and research institutions estimate that the number of annual sentenced and executed death verdicts in China is quite high.

The amendment aims to drop the death penalty for 13 economic and non-violent crimes that have been rarely applied over recent years.

Teng believes that the Eighth Amendment, consistent with the international trend of the rule of law, has promoted the reform of China's death penalty system. He also said that according to the current criminal law, 68 kinds of crimes can face the death penalty, but since there are no available statistics on death sentences or executions, it is difficult to determine the scope of influence of the amendment.

Teng said the reason why serious corruption, classified as a non-violent crime, still carries the death penalty is because the conditions are still not mature.

Corruption crimes are against the public interest, so they normally cause greater harm and produce worse results and more serious damage than other economic crimes. In the short term, the death penalty for corruption crimes will not be abolished.

Teng thinks that the ultimate goal of the socialist rule of law is to achieve the unconditional abolishment of death penalties for all crimes. At present, the time is far from ripe, and this conclusion can be drawn from China's development stages in all aspects. China still has a long way to go in reducing the number of criminal executions.

By People's Daily Online


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