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January 6, 2008

With Olympics coming, China works on its capital conventions

Cropped_medalThe Los Angeles Times has this fascinating article detailing how the upcoming 2008 Olympics in Beijing has prompted China to review and revise the operation of its death penalty.  Here are excerpts:

Recently, Chinese rights advocates ... have seen progress within a legal system that each year is estimated to execute more people than all other countries combined.  Legislation enacted in 2006 requires the high court to review all death sentences, a step that had been dropped two decades ago.

Facing pressure before the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China reportedly has scaled back the pace of executions.  Although the government considers the number a state secret, China executed 1,051 people in 2006, accounting for two-thirds of the 1,591 put to death worldwide that year, according to statistics from Amnesty International, often based on media reports.  That represented a 40% drop from China's recorded total of 1,770 the previous year.  Yet because of state secrecy, some activists believe that the number of executions could be as high as 10,000 to 15,000 a year....

Sixty-eight offenses, including such nonviolent crimes as tax evasion and pornography distribution, carry the death penalty. Officials are considering reducing the number of crimes punishable by execution, but say corruption, bribery and national security violations might still lead to death sentences.

The reforms, advocated by a growing lobby of Chinese lawyers and scholars, are part of a policy that officials call "kill fewer, kill carefully." It calls for improved trial and review processes, and requires that all death penalty appeals be heard in open court.  Experts are divided over how much substance the reforms carry.

Relatedly, as detailed in recent media report, China is moving toward lethal injection over firing squads as its prime execution method.  As this Guardian story explains:

China's executioners are to step up the use of lethal injections, a senior court official told state media, in order to make executions "more humane" in the world's leading practitioner of capital punishment.

January 6, 2008 at 08:29 AM | Permalink


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