China ends death penalty for 9 crimes

BEIJING • China has removed the death penalty for nine crimes after its top legislature adopted amendments to the country's Criminal Law.

Analysts said the decrease in the use of the death penalty is an important step in China's judicial reform and an improvement in the country's legal system, the Global Times tabloid, published by the ruling Communist Party's official People's Daily, reported yesterday.

Lawmakers in the National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee last Saturday voted and passed the amendments, which also stipulate tougher rules against corruption. Criminals convicted of serious corruption who have received a two-year suspended death sentence will face life imprisonment after the two years, with no commutation or parole allowed.

The nine crimes removed from the death penalty include smuggling weapons, ammunition, nuclear materials or counterfeit currency; raising funds by means of fraud; arranging for or forcing another person to engage in prostitution; obstructing a police officer or a person on duty from performing his duties; counterfeiting currency; and fabricating rumours to mislead others during wartime.

Xinhua news agency said the maximum penalty for the nine crimes would be life in prison.

RIGHT TO LIFE

"Capital punishment was adopted in the past to uphold the authority of the law. But the general trend in the development of the Criminal Law is to respect the right to life."

RUAN QILIN, a professor at the China University of Political Science and Law

The number of crimes punishable by death would drop to 46 when the amendments take effect on Nov 1, Xinhua said.

"Ruling out the nine death penalties shows the progress of China's legal reform," Professor Ruan Qilin of the China University of Political Science and Law, told the Global Times.

"Capital punishment was adopted in the past to uphold the authority of the law. But the general trend in the development of the Criminal Law is to respect the right to life," he noted.

In 2011, the Standing Committee dropped the death penalty for 13 economy-related non-violent crimes, including smuggling cultural relics, gold and silver.

The changes to sentencing for serious corruption aim to "safeguard judicial fairness" and prevent "the most corrupt criminals from serving shorter prison terms through commutation", according to the top legislature.

Instead of delivering a sentence solely based on the amount embezzled or bribed, the new law suggests that the punishment should depend on both the amount involved and the impact it has caused to society.

"It could serve as a deterrent to corrupt officials and reflects the determination to crack down on corruption," said Prof Ruan.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 01, 2015, with the headline 'China ends death penalty for 9 crimes'. Print Edition | Subscribe