As it turned out, Shi Xiaorong not only was not killed by Teng Xingshan she
wasn't even dead.
But Teng was convicted of killing her in 1988, and the next year, he was
executed for "intentional homicide."
Tuesday's amendment to the Organic Law of the People's Courts, passed by the
Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC), gives the Supreme
People's Court the authority to review all death penalties to ensure that a
situation like Teng's does not happen again in China.
Teng, a farmer in Central China's Hunan Province, filed an appeal after he
was sentenced to be executed, but the Provincial High People's Court rejected
the appeal in early 1989, and the sentence was carried out.
But Shi, Teng's supposed victim, had in fact been kidnapped to East China's
Shandong Province in 1987, and she resurfaced last year.
The Hunan Provincial High People's Court acknowledged Teng's innocence in
January. It was cases like this, in which some courts sentenced death
incorrectly, that prompted the return of the review of all death sentences to
the Supreme People's Court.
Legal scholars are singing high praises for the move, saying it guarantees
human rights and ensures justice.
"In the past, in most cases, the provincial-level high people's courts passed
the death sentence and approved the death penalty," said Chen Ruihua, professor
at the Peking University Law School.
In July, the Supreme People's Court ordered an "open trial for second
instance" in death penalty cases. Until then, provincial-level high people's
courts had made the final judgment on death penalties after merely examining
"The standard in pronouncing the death sentence might have differed in courts
in various regions in the past," Chen said.
"Some who were not sentenced to death in one province could receive capital
punishment in another province."
Xu Xianming, a member of the NPC Law Committee and president of the China
University of Political Science and Law, was quoted by the Xinhua News Agency as
saying that revising the organic law safeguarded the consistency of the legal
The revision to the Criminal Procedure Law in 1996 and amendment to the
Criminal Law in 1997 stipulated that the Supreme People's Court must approve the
"The pursuit of justice through criminal procedure was safeguarded to protect
human rights," Xu was quoted as saying.
He stressed that although there is no plan to abolish the
death penalty in the near future, China is adopting reforms to be more cautious
in applying the death penalty and reducing the number of executions.