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China mulls to cut down executions|
By Cao Li (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-07-24 08:02
Beijing - Top legislators are revising the country's Criminal Law to limit the offences that carry the death penalty, as part of major efforts to further reduce the use of capital punishment.
A source with the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC), the country's top legislature, told China Daily on Friday that a draft revision will be submitted to the committee's bi-monthly meeting in August.
The source declined to give more details on the revision.
Guangzhou-based Southern Weekly reported on Friday that the revision aims to cut the number of crimes applicable for the death sentence from 68.
It will also seek to forbid the punishment for elderly convicts aged 70 or above, the report said.
"In line with international practice, having so many crimes that could receive a maximum punishment of death is unnecessary," Chu Huaizhi, a professor on criminal law with Peking University, told Southern Weekly. "It may not be helpful in preventing crimes."
He attended a meeting organized by the legislative affairs committee of the NPC this month to solicit suggestions on the revision from legal experts.
Gao Mingxuan, a famous criminal law professor with Renmin University of China who also attended the meeting, said it is better to first reduce the use of death penalty for non-violent crimes, as it will take a long time for the country to abolish capital punishment.
Liu Renwen, a researcher at the institute of law under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told China Daily that the revision is the legalization of a policy on criminal law implementation to restrict the use of death sentences.
Since Jan 1, 2007, the Supreme People's Court must approve all death penalties. However, court statistics suggest that about 10 percent of those reviewed are reduced to suspended sentences or life imprisonment.
"Abolition of capital punishment or limiting its application in non-violent crimes is an irresistible trend," said Liu.
In China, the majority of executions are for murder, robbery, intentional injury and drug trafficking, although corruption also carries the punishment.
Of the 68 crimes listed, 44 do not involve violence, yet "it is not practical to abolish execution for all 44, as corruption is widely seen in China and brings severe social impact", said Liu, who added: "A limit should be set."
In line with the Criminal Law that was last revised in 1997, those convicted of taking bribes of 100,000 yuan ($14,000) or more can be sentenced to death.
Tong Zhiwei, a professor at Shanghai Jiaotong University specializing in constitutional studies, said the current sentencing guidelines are outdated.
"Although the law says taking bribes of 100,000 yuan or more can receive capital punishment, no one charged with corruption is sentenced to death for that figure," he said. "The sentencing is variable and in some cases unfair.
"Someone could be sentenced to death for an amount that is far less than in a case where the suspect is sentenced to life in prison," he argued.
Tong agreed capital punishment should be abolished for non-violent crimes and for elderly convicts but suggested longer prison terms for severe crimes.
The longest term in China at the moment is 20 years.
Chen Youxi, a famous defense lawyer, suggested applying a third-instance trial for death sentences, in which a hearing would be arranged for prosecutors and defendants to debate.
However, he said he believes it is not practical to abolish the death penalty entirely.