China’s Supreme Court has ordered judges to be more sparing in the imposition of the death penalty, ordering that execution should be reserved for “an extremely small number of serious offenders”. The Supreme Court said murders triggered by family disputes should not always result in the death penalty and the death penalty should be withheld in certain cases of crimes of passion or economic crimes where the offender’s payment of compensation should be taken into account. The Supreme Court continues to back capital punishment as a deterrent.
This is a welcome initiative. While culture, history and the challenge of managing over a billion people hinder its abolition now, at China’s current rate of emergence, it may abolish use of the death penalty before America.
The most high-profile execution this year was of the former head of the State Food and Drug Administration, Zheng Xiaoyu, for taking 6.5 million yuan ($860,000) in bribes and for dereliction of duty. In 2005, an estimated 1,770 executions were carried out and nearly 4,000 people were sentenced to death, human rights group Amnesty International says.
Some more info: China is believed to execute more people than rest of the world combined; Amnesty International says China carried out two-thirds of the world’s executions last year, but China says it expects a 10-year low this year. Non-violent crimes such as tax fraud and embezzlement carry death penalty. Other crimes that carry the death penalty include murder, rape, robbery and drug offences. China does not yet publish official figures on executions. Observers say that many cases are based on confessions and trials often take less than a day.