On Friday, the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress reduced the scope of the death penalty in
by removing it for thirteen crimes, according to a report from Xinhuanet. The death penalty still remains applicable for fifty-five crimes. This is the first time that the number of crimes for which the death penalty may be applied has been reduced since 1979. China
The crimes concerned are all non-violent offences, and include smuggling cultural relics, gold, silver, and other precious metals and rare animals and their products out of the country; carrying out fraudulent activities with financial bills; carrying out fraudulent activities with letters of credit; the false issuance of exclusive value-added tax invoices to defraud export tax refunds or to offset taxes; the forging or selling of forged exclusive value-added tax invoices; the teaching of crime-committing methods; and robbing ancient cultural ruins.
Unfortunately, we do not know what this means in practice because we have no statistics either about the total number of executions in
or the crimes for which they are imposed. It may be that this reform of the criminal law reduces the numbers of executions significantly. But it may also be the case that the reform is purely cosmetic with little practical consequences. I cannot recall the last time I heard of someone being executed in China for ‘smuggling cultural relics’, ‘teaching of crime-committing methods’ and ‘robbing ancient cultural ruins’ China
This reform is to be welcomed and it is a sign of changing attitudes within
. There is lots of evidence to suggest that absolute numbers of executions in China are declining to an important degree. This makes sense. China is simply part of a trend to lowering the death penalty in countries that retain it. The same can be seen in China Singapore, Egypt and the . United States
Thanks to Dang Heping.