China criminal law draft amendment shows lenity for old people

08:27, December 21, 2010      

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The death penalty will not to be given to people aged 75 years or more at the time of trial except if they used exceptional cruelty when murdering another, a draft amendment to China's Criminal Law says.

The draft amendment was submitted to the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC), China's top legislature, for its second reading Monday.

According to the first reading on the draft amendment in August this year, the death penalty would not be applied to people aged 75 years or older at the time the crime was committed.

Previously, only those aged less than 18 years at the time the crime was committed or pregnant women at trial time were exempt from capital punishment.

When the draft amendment was released for public submissions, some suggested changing the age from 75 to 70 to reflect the tradition of showing solicitude for the aged and out of human rights considerations.

Some netizens said people's life span has lengthened and some people over 75 years of age are capable of committing serious crimes.

If all people above 75 years of age were exempt from the death penalty, it might lead to an increase in crime, netizens said.

The amendment is the eighth to the country's 1997 version of the Criminal Law and is meant to further implement the policy of tempering justice with mercy.

If the amendment becomes law, it will be a major move to limit the use of the death penalty, after the Supreme People's Court in 2007 began to review and approve all death penalty decisions.

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