China reforms death penalty appeals process in bid to safeguard human rights

China will make court proceedings on death penalty appeals open to the public next year in a bid to safeguard human rights, the government said Thursday.

As of Jan. 1 appeals of death sentence cases involving "major controversy" will be open to the public, the official Xinhua News Agency said, citing a notice Wednesday from the Supreme Court. It didn't give further details.

As of July 1 next year, all death sentence appeals will be heard in open court, Xinhua said. Xinhua said the new regulation was aimed at "improving human rights protection," and preventing wrong convictions.

Current regulations allow such cases to be heard in public but they rarely are, Xinhua said.

Human rights groups repeatedly have criticized what they describe as China's extensive, arbitrary use of capital punishment, the AP reports.

They claim that China accounted for 3,400 executions in 2004, nearly 90 percent of the world total. A.M.

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