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China to open more death penalty cases to public
Updated: 2006-02-27 16:08

China is to hold open trials for death penalty appeals in an effort to better regulate executions, a legal scholar said on Monday.

From the second half of 2006, all death penalty appeals which go to a provincial high court will be heard publicly, a departure from the usual practice of closed reviews and probes, said Liu Renwen, a scholar at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

With the judicial system under scrutiny after a series of widely publicised wrongful convictions, the Supreme Court has also moved to reclaim its right to final review of death sentences, but Liu said the policy was meeting opposition from lower courts.

"When the Supreme Court can take this power back is still a question," Liu told foreign correspondents.

"Local governments think it is a good tool to control public security. If they lose such power they think of course it would not be good," he said.

The top court has set up three branch courts to conduct reviews, a move officials say could cut executions by 30 percent.

But experts say it is still too short-staffed to handle all death penalty cases,  Liu said making more death penalty trials public was another way of controlling the legal process for cases that could result in execution.

Several areas, including Beijing and Shanghai and the southern province of Hainan, have already begun to hear appeals in public trials, Xinhua news agency has reported.

Some 68 crimes in China can incur the death penalty, about half of which are non-violent offences, including corruption and financial crimes, Liu said.

Executions in China are carried out by a bullet to the head or by lethal injection.

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