Sunday 27 February 2011

China Reduces Scope of Death Penalty

On Friday, the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress reduced the scope of the death penalty in China 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.
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 China 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’
This reform is to be welcomed and it is a sign of changing attitudes within China. 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 Singapore, Egypt and the United States.
Thanks to Dang Heping.

1 comment:

Prospectivelawyer said...

I support this too but a lot of human rights groups have been complaining that this will make barely any difference since people are rarely ever put to death for these crimes.