Following last week’s report that China was considering cutting the number of crimes punishable by death, a new online poll conducted by the Social Survey Center of China Youth Daily shows an overwhelming amount of support for the death penalty as a punishment for corruption cases.
Of the 2,105 people surveyed yesterday, 73.2 percent agreed that the death sentence should continue to be applied in graft cases.
A draft amendment to the Criminal Law, proposed before the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress on October 37, considers scrapping the death penalty for nine crimes, including some involving embezzlement and bribery. The proposal would see the maximum punishment for these crimes change to life imprisonment.
The draft follows China’s decision in 2011 to drop the death penalty for 13 offenses which were also, for the most part, nonviolent acts.
China Daily relays:
It is natural that China would remove death penalty after the country joins related international organizations, the report quoted Che Hao, associate professor at Peking University Law School, as saying.
The crimes that no more carry the death sentence are mainly economic and nonviolent in nature. “But the abolishment of death penalty is not only a legal issue but also a political case,” Che said.
Considering the ongoing anti-graft campaign and people’s high expectations, it would be prudent to keep the death sentence for corruption cases, he added.
An editorial published in South China Morning Post yesterday said that removing the death sentence for nine generally nonviolent crimes would be seen as a symbolic step, bringing the country closer to international standards and possibly to a long-term decline in the use of capital punishment.
Leaving aside arguments about crime and punishment and the deterrent effect of the death penalty, there are good reasons for China to reflect on it at a time when its leaders have approved reforms to strengthen the rule of law. One is that the liberal use of it raises the possibility of executing prisoners wrongfully convicted by courts that rarely find anyone innocent. It is far from unheard of on the mainland for others to later confess to the crime or for a supposed murder victim to be later found alive. Another reason is the link to non-consensual harvesting of organs for transplant, which does nothing for China’s modern image.
A 2014 report from Amnesty International placed China as the world’s leading executioner. The Da Hua Foundation, a San Francisco-based human rights group, estimated that around 2,400 people were sentenced to death last year, although exact numbers are nearly impossible to calculate due to a lack of transparency and lack of information released by the government.