China may scrap death penalty for nine crimes

Nine offences, including smuggling weapons and counterfeiting money, being considered for reforms to sentencing laws.

According to one study, China executed an estimated 2,400 people in 2013 [EPA]

China is considering trimming nine crimes from its list of offences punishable by death, state media said, as the ruling Communist Party considers broader reforms to the country’s legal system.

A draft amendment to China’s criminal law, which includes the use of the death penalty, was submitted for initial review to the country’s National People’s Congress, the official Xinhua news agency reported on Monday.

Crimes that would be exempt from capital punishment under the amendment include: “smuggling weapons, ammunition, nuclear materials or counterfeit currencies; counterfeiting currencies; raising funds by means of fraud; and arranging for or forcing another person to engage in prostitution.”

The crimes of “obstructing a commander or a person on duty from performing his duties” and “fabricating rumours to mislead others during wartime”, are also under review, the news agency said.

Rights groups have said China executes more people a year than any other country, raising concern of irreversible miscarriages of justice.

Officials had previously said that China would review the application of the death penalty, which applies to 55 offences,  including fraud and illegal money-lending.

2,400 executions in 2013

China guards the number of people executed every year as a state secret.

The San Francisco-based Dui Hua Foundation, which seeks the release of political prisoners in China, estimated that 2,400 people were executed in 2013.

Outside of China, almost 80 percent of all executions in 2013 were recorded in Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia, according to figures from Amnesty International. Iran is reported to have executed 369 people, and Iraq is recorded as having executed 169, according to Amnesty. 

The reduction in death penalty crimes in China is not expected to greatly reduce the number of executions per year, scholars have said.

The Communist Party, worried about rising social unrest and anger over land grabs, corruption and pollution unveiled legal reforms aimed at improving judicial independence at a key meeting last week.

The Party has stressed that it will remain in overall control of the judiciary, and despite the move to implement legal reforms, few analysts expect significant political change any time soon.

Source: Reuters