Death Penalty, The Chinese Style

The Chinese authorities intend to reduce the number of 68 death charges in criminal law to 55. The adequate draft law was submitted to the parliament of the country on August 23.

Some of those charges were rarely used before as the reason for sentencing perpetrators to death penalty. The abolishment of death penalty on other articles of the nation's criminal law means that such crimes as robbery or the production of forged monetary checks will not be considered in China as socially dangerous. To crown it all, the country will have both the bottom and the top age limit for the use of death penalty - 18 and 70-75 years respectively.

International human rights organizations constantly criticize China for its absolute leadership in terms of legalized death penalties. China passes up to 80 percent of all death sentences on the planet.

Chinese authorities execute about 1,700 people every year, official statistics data say. Human rights activists believe that the real number is much higher and may even reach 10,000 people a year. It can be true indeed, because the Chinese authorities classify the information related to death penalty and share it with the general public unwillingly.

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In China, a person can be sentenced to death not only for such serious crimes as espionage, state treason, murder, but for other less serious felonies, such as illegal trade, pimping, organizing brothels, grave desecration, making counterfeit bank notes, etc. However, one should bear in mind the fact that some death articles of the Chinese criminal law have become anachronism. For example, they have capital punishment stipulated for opening brothels, whereas brothels can be found practically everywhere in the country.

The Chinese authorities try to keep up with the times and expand the list of death charges periodically. For example, in 2003, the nation introduced capital punishment for the deliberate distribution of SARS infection and for the production of toxic raw materials. For instance, the entrepreneurs behind the production of melamine-containing milk powder were executed last year.

Human rights activists claim that there is no such notion as "presumption of innocence" in China. Evidence received under tortures is considered reliable and legally valid, defendants' lawyers may not always be present during interrogations, etc.

It is worthy of note that it does not go about the abolishment of capital punishment at all. However, China has been trying to show it to the international community during the recent years that it tries to become a more democratic nation at this point. For example, China banned public executions in 1997. However, La Reppublica wrote that hundreds of children could watch the execution of six convicts in 2004 in one of the provinces.

The process of execution in the country has become more humane too, if it is possible to say such a thing. A person could be decapitated during Mao Zedong's era. Now China executes death sentences through lethal injections in most cases.

The administration of the Chinese Communist Party has been taking efforts to reduce the number of executions during the recent five years. It was particularly decided at a session in October of 2006 to preserve, albeit to restrict death penalty, and avoid erroneous executions.

The process to investigate the crimes stipulating death penalty has become a lot tougher since then. The number of executions decreased in the country when the Supreme Court was appointed the primary agency in approving all adequate sentences. According to official information, the Supreme Court dismissed 15 percent of death sentences and their total number dropped by almost a third.

The Chinese administration is not going to stop. After approving new death charges in the criminal law, the parliament of the country is expected to proceed with new tougher penalties for scorching, violating accident prevention regulations and DUI. China obviously has its own style in the reform of the system of justice.

Sergey Balmasov

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Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov