China takes closer look at death penalties

By Li Qian (
Updated: 2007-08-08 16:47

China issued a new decree on reviewing death penalty sentences, clarifying specific regulations in the legal procedure.

"Regulation of the Second Trial of Death Penalty Cases (Draft)" worked out by The Supreme People's Procuratorate made clear the specific rules about reviewing a case, from the court trial to the judgment.

On January 1, 2007, the Supreme People's Court reserved the right to review all death penalty decisions made by lower courts, in order to avoid a miscarriage of justice.

The new draft regulation orders the Supreme People's Court to primarily investigate the authenticity of evidence, and the reliability of testimonies while re-examining cases.

The executions of felons have been a hot topic among human rights groups who accuse China of failing to live up to their standard in rights protection.

Zheng Xiaoyu, the former head of China's State Food and Drug Administration, was sentenced to death on May 29 in Beijing he was found guilty of taking 6.49 million yuan (US$850,000) in bribes and for dereliction of duty. He was then executed in July 10, which aroused questions of the severity of the punishment.

Spokesman for the Central Commission for Disciplinary Inspection Gan Yisheng played down the concerns. "The reason for Zheng Xiaoyu's death sentence was that the bribes he took were huge and he committed serious crimes," he explained.

"We are very prudent in using the death penalty to execute perpetrators of financial crimes and the number of death penalties handed down to these kinds of criminals is very small," Gan added.

Over one third of all countries around the world have the death penalty, covering more than half of the world's population. Chinese lawmakers believe the country will eventually abandon the sentence. "To abolish the death penalty is a step in the right direction in the development of China's legal system, but this will take time," said Zhang Yumao, a member of China's National People's Congress.

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