The blog has been silent for the past because I have been in China, and cannot access it due to censorship.
Together with Roger Hood (who has just published the 4th edition of his book The Death Penalty), I participated in seminars in at the Dalian Maritime University that were co-sponsored by colleagues at the Beijing Norman University. Roger and I spoke to more than 150 Chinese scholars, officials, judges and law students. It was quite astonishing. They told us, during the conference, that there was now a consensus in favour of abolishing the death penalty in China. We discussed a report prepared by several researchers at the Beijing Normal University setting out a strategy for the restriction of the death penalty with a view to its abolition. Nobody should hold their breath expecting any dramatic immediate results, but what is significant is how much the discourse has changed over the past seven or eight years, since I started going to China for such sessions on capital punishment. In 2001, our comments on the death penalty would be met with rather chilly answers, and we would be told that this was a European obsession incompatible with Chinese domestic policy. Now, we are told it is simply a matter of time.
China is a country of paradoxes. On the one hand, the progress in so many areas is absolutely stunning. But when they are looking for excuses about not making more headway in the area of human rights, the Chinese retreat into cliches about being a developing country, and how change takes many years to effect.
Well, the good news is that there is movement underway there. I expect to be back for another seminar later in the year. Maybe then I'll be able to access my blog.