BEIJING - A proposal to abolish the death penalty for 13 economic crimes is facing opposition from some members of the National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee as legislators began reviewing the eighth draft amendment to the Criminal Law earlier this week.
"Economic crimes are on the rise in China at the moment. So it might not be a good time to abolish capital punishment for such crimes, especially those that have a negative social effect," said Cong Bin, an NPC Standing Committee member and professor at the Hebei Medical University, during a group discussion.
According to some other legislators, limiting the application of capital punishment "does not necessarily require an abolishment" of the death penalty.
"Our focus should be on improving financial supervision and curbing economic crimes," said Shi Taifeng, another lawmaker.
Shi added that "ineffective supervision" on the death penalty has contributed to the high execution rate in the country.
Two crimes that, according to the draft, do not deserve the death penalty - falsely issuing exclusive value-added tax invoices to defraud export tax refunds, and carrying out fraudulent activities using financial certificates, bills and letter of credits - were particularly questioned at the meeting.
"Harsh punishment needs to be meted out to ease public indignation for financial crimes, which usually involve large amounts of money and carry a negative social effect," Cong said.
As China is in a period of transition, with an increasing number of social conflicts, the death penalty is required to deter criminals, Cong added.
However, legal experts argued that the "deterrent effect is being overstated".
"Blindly worshipping capital punishment results in a high execution rate," Liu Wenren, a criminal law expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told China Daily.
Besides, criminals who have already transferred their illegal funds overseas are not afraid of death, Liu said, adding that life sentences work better to frighten them.
China's top legislature moved to review the eighth amendment to the Criminal Law with an aim to restructure the country's criminal system.
The revision, if enacted, will cut the current 68 crimes punishable by death under the Criminal Law by about one-fifth to 55. It will be the first time the number of crimes carrying the maximum penalty would be reduced since the People's Republic of China enacted its Criminal Law in 1979.
A draft law or amendment usually receives at least three readings at the top legislature before being adopted.