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

The question then is, should China ride with the tide? Or, should it have a distinct criminal justice system like its economy - "socialist market economy with Chinese characteristics?"

The very suggestion of removing corruption from China's list of 68 crimes that draw capital punishment has provoked a public outcry even at the embryonic stage of public debate.

Corruption, rampant and prevalent as it is, poses a serious threat to China's political stability and sustainable development. Hence, it warrants utmost care in its handling, especially at a time when China's Gini coefficient, a statistical measure of income inequality, has been hovering above the red line of 0.4.

China need not necessarily to abolish the death penalty for corruption for it has other ways to manoeuvre on the technical front with countries harbouring its criminals.

For instance, it can pull on the weight of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC), to which the United States and other major host countries of China's corrupt officials are signatories. UNCAC contains elaborate mechanisms and procedures for seizure, confiscation and return of illegally acquired assets.

Though China is unlikely to have an agreement on the application of capital punishment, it is possible nevertheless for them to work out mutually accepted principles.

The host countries could be asked to keep the criminals, if they want to, but confiscate and return their ill-gotten money and assets to China. And Beijing could reciprocate in handling their nationals.

Pulling this off successfully would serve the dual purpose of deterring corruption and saving the host countries from sending back the criminals.

China desperately needs those US$50 billion, the kind of money that can be used to build schools for its children, provide jobs to hundreds of thousands of its unemployed and arrange for basic amenities many of its people so badly need.

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