Source: China Legal Science (Zhongguo Faxue) 2014 March (2) 121-140
Since 2007, reforms to the administration of China's death penalty and cautious efforts towards restricting its application have inevitably reduced the number of death sentences and executions, though the numbers remain a state secret. Progressive restriction of capital punishment in China, as elsewhere within Asia, will inevitably result in increased use of imprisonment for life. This article examines the experiences of Western liberal democracies that have abolished or progressively restricted the death penalty in choosing alternatives to death. It focuses on two examples; the judicial evolution of whole life orders in the United Kingdom and the increasing recourse to life sentences without the possibility of parole (LWOP) in the United States. In drawing on these jurisdictions, as well as brief consideration of alternative penal structures and practices across Europe and South America, it poses and seeks to answer two questions: Is LWOP or whole life orders a fair and viable substitute for capital punishment in China? If not, what would be a socially, morally, and economically sustainable alternative to the death penalty?