China mulls lessening number of crimes punishable by death   2010-08-23 10:34:06 FeedbackPrintRSS

BEIJING, Aug. 23 (Xinhua) -- A draft amendment to China's Criminal Law has proposed reducing the number of crimes subject to the death penalty to better protect human rights.

The draft amendment was submitted Monday to the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC), China's top legislature, for its first reading.

If the amendment becomes law, it will be the first time the number of crimes subject to the death penalty has been reduced since the People's Republic of China enacted its criminal law in 1979. It will also be a major move by China to limit the use of the death penalty, after the Supreme People's Court in 2007 began to review and approve all death penalty decisions.

China currently stipulates that 68 crimes are punishable by the death penalty. The draft amendment eliminates capital punishment for 13 economy-related non-violent offences, a drop of 19.1 percent.

Death penalties had been mainly meted out for seven or eight crimes - including murder, rape and robbery - but rarely given for other crimes, so there is room for reducing the number of crimes punishable by execution, said Chen Zexian, a criminal law expert at the China Law Society.

The 13 crimes to be free from capital punishment include smuggling out of the country prohibited cultural relics, gold, silver, and other precious metals and rare animals and their products; carrying out fraudulent activities with financial bills; and carrying out fraudulent activities with letters of credit.

The 13 crimes also include falsely issuing exclusive value-added tax invoices to defraud export tax refunds or to offset taxes; forging or selling forged exclusive value-added tax invoices; teaching crime-committing methods; and robbing ancient cultural ruins, among others.

Li Shishi, director of Commission for Legislative Affairs of the NPC Standing Committee, said that "considering China's current economic and social development reality, appropriately removing the death penalty from some economy-related non-violent offences, will not negatively affect social stability nor public security."

China has made various efforts to limit the death penalty use over recent years. On Jan. 1, 2007, the Supreme People's Court restarted reviewing before approving all death penalty cases to make sure decisions by lower courts are accurate, after media exposed a series of errors in determining such cases since 2005.

While limiting the use of the death penalty, the draft amendment provides stricter rules for commuting the death penalty with a reprieve.

It is the eighth amendment to the country's 1997 version of the Criminal Law. In most cases, a draft law will be read two or three times before being voted for adoption.

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