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November 1, 2006

Death penalty reforms in China

As detailed in this New York Times article, China has altered its appellate review procedures for death sentences:

Responding to domestic and international criticism of its extensive use of capital punishment, China adopted new rules on Tuesday requiring review of all death sentences by the Supreme People’s Court, state news media reported....  The authorities are facing mounting criticism from human rights groups and Chinese legal scholars for what they say is the widespread and arbitrary use of the death penalty.

China executes more people every year than all other nations combined, by some Chinese estimates, up to 10,000 a year.  Chinese courts have been embarrassed in recent years by a number of executions of people who were later proved innocent.

China’s legislature, the National People’s Congress, approved the amendment to the law, which “is believed to be the most important reform of capital punishment in China in more than two decades,” the official New China News Agency said in a brief report.  The state news media have estimated that the number of executions could drop by as much as 30 percent under the new system, though they have not said how they arrived at that figure....

Local courts had been given the power to impose the death penalty by Deng Xiaoping, who was angry about a wave of crime and corruption that threatened his economic reform program, which was still in its infancy.  From the early 1980s until now, they have operated with virtually no oversight, a situation that has led to the widespread and, legal experts say, indiscriminate use of capital punishment....  Some Chinese legal scholars say lower courts will now have to be more careful in imposing the death penalty, handing down more long prison terms instead to avoid the scrutiny of the high court.

November 1, 2006 at 05:36 AM | Permalink

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