China’s death penalty is undergoing a huge overhaul. Officials today announced a new set of rules as to what crimes qualify for execution. In addition, courts around China have been told to forgo any further executions until a universal guideline is approved throughout China. This has been the first time a reform has been conducted to the Criminal Law since 1979.
From a list of 68 crimes that qualify for the death penalty, 13 have been taken down due to this new legislature. China.org reports that the crimes which are no longer punishable by execution include:
economic-related non-violent offences, including 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.
In addition to downgrading these crimes, government officials have urged Chinese courts to “pronounce a two-year suspension of execution for condemned criminals if an immediate execution is not deemed necessary.” Immediate executions are deemed for large scale murderers and drug trafficking.
After an annual review of the judicial system, the supreme court of the People’s Republic have also come out stating that only the death penalty should only be applied to “a very small number” and only to those who commit “extremely serious crimes”.
Wang Sixin, a law professor at the Communication University of China, says that “The recall of the power by the Supreme People’s Court was the backdrop for the government becoming more careful towards death penalty. It is trying to reduce the numbers of executions”.
As of 2007, the People’s Supreme Court is has the final authority over death penalty approval and is the only body who has authority to grant reprieves.
By Patrick Keefe