Tuesday, 14 March 2006

China to retain death penalty, with reforms

China's chief justice Xiao Yang has confirmed plans to reform the handling of capital cases, in a report to the 10th National People's Congress (NPC) in Beijing.

Xiao Yang, president of the Supreme People's Court (SPC), delivered his report on the work of the court to the full session of the Chinese legislature on 11 March.

According to a Xinhua report in the People's Daily Online, Xiao Yang said that all appeals in capital cases would soon be held in an open court.

"As of July 1, 2006, all the second-instance trials of death sentence cases shall be heard in open court," Xiao Yang said in his report.

Discussing the report in a fringe meeting on Sunday 12 March, Xiao Yang reportedly ruled out abolishing the death penalty but stressed it should be used cautiously.

Xiao's comments, during a panel discussion of deputies from North China's Shanxi Province, were quoted in a Xinhua report posted on the Chinese government's official portal, GOV.cn.

"China's current policy regarding death penalty is to preserve it but use it cautiously," Xiao said. "There is no stipulation on doing away with death penalty in China's existing laws, and there has been no decision on whether death penalty will no longer be applicable to certain kinds of crimes," he said.

According to Xinhua, Xiao said "We must continue to follow the policy of being both strict and lenient according to the actual situation of the cases, and show leniency to the convicts who only committed minor offenses or merited milder punishment and even exemption of punishment."

He added that since the right to live is the "most important human right," the Supreme Court would continue to improve procedures for second instance trials and the examination and approval of cases involving death sentences.

Xinhua said earlier reports indicated that an NPC deputy had proposed removing the death penalty from certain crimes.

Jiang Bixin, an deputy from Central China's Hunan Province, and president of the Higher People's Court of Hunan Province, reportedly submitted a motion to the NPC session suggesting that death penalty be gradually phased out for economic crimes such as embezzlement and accepting bribes.

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