China has reiterated the need to apply the death penalty to only a small number of serious offenders.
The Supreme People's Court on Thursday publicized a document on improving criminal trials which reiterated, "All criminals that can be handed down a death sentence without the need for immediate execution should be given a death sentence with a two-year reprieve."
"Death sentences with a reprieve since can not only punish the guilty but also reduce the number of death penalties," the decision said.
It also said murders triggered by disputes among family members and neighbors should not necessarily lead to capital punishment if the murder arose from the victim's own fault and the victim's families are financially compensated, the decision said.
The document also required all courts to properly balance the prudent use of the death penalty and the need to ruthlessly punish criminals who have committed serious crimes.
"We must fully consider the need to safeguard social stability and not hesitate in giving death sentences with immediate execution to criminals whose crimes have caused extremely serious consequences to society," it reads.
On January 1, 2007, the Supreme People's Court (SPC) regained the right to review all death penalty decisions made by lower courts, ending its 24-year absence in approving China's execution verdicts.
Early this month, Jiang Xingchang, vice president of the SPC said, "As people's courts across China have been strictly controlling and cautiously applying death penalty over the past dozen years, the number of death penalties have kept declining and reached its lowest point last year," he said.
"In the first half of 2007, the number of death sentences continued to drop compared with the figure of 2006," he said.