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Opinion: Corruption has to stay capital crime
By Zou Hanru (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-08-19 05:54

Today, corruption may be a crime punishable by death only in China. But most countries were looking at capital punishment as a practical way of deterring serious crimes utill only half a century ago.

Opponents of the death penalty have almost always approached the issue from a moral, or should we say, religious point of view. Their principal argument: You cannot destroy what you cannot create.

Supporters of capital punishment, on the other hand, take a more pragmatic view, arguing that the death penalty does have a strong deterrent effect.

The arguments for and against the death penalty run into volumes and perhaps will rumble on forever without unanimous agreement. But studies do suggest that one execution deters five to 18 potential murderers from committing the ultimate crime.

Though there is no detailed study on the death penalty's deterrent effect on corruption cases, it can be expected to play a similar role.

If corruption is struck off the capital punishment list in such a situation, there is a fear that all hell would break loose.

It is true though that to tackle corruption at the roots, prevention is more important than punishment.

To start with, China needs to thoroughly review its institutional system for preventing and combating corruption and for identifying and plugging loopholes. Corruption in many cases has been the result of power abuse. So we have to think of ways to curb such powers.

It is time for China to declare a people's war on corruption. It is also time to rope the mass media into this war. The Zhejiang provincial committee of the Communist Party has made a good start by expressly empowering its local media to scrutinize and keep an eye on public officials.

Educational ads should be telecast on TV, broadcast on the radio and published in newspapers, something that Hong Kong's Independent Commission Against Corruption has been doing for a long time.

Utill the war on corruption is institutionally ensured to be won, utill such time that a multi-layer firewall is in place and starts functioning properly, corruption should continue to stay a capital crime.

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