Full Text: White Paper on Judicial Reform in China

Updated: 2012-10-09 13:12


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7. Strict Control over and Prudent Application of the Death Penalty

China retains the death penalty, but strictly controls and prudently applies it. China's Criminal Law stipulates that the death penalty shall only be applied to criminals who have committed extremely serious crimes, and has very strict stipulations on its application. Amendment Eight to the Criminal Law promulgated in 2011 eliminated the death penalty for 13 economy-related non-violent offences, accounting for 19.1% of the total death penalty charges. It stipulates that death penalty shall generally not be used for people who are already 75 years old at the time of trial. It also established the system of death penalty with a suspension of execution and put restrictions on reduction of sentences. These are attempts to create conditions in legislation and system to gradually reduce the use of the death penalty.

The death penalty bears directly on the citizen's right to life, so it must be applied in a very prudent manner. Starting in 2007, only the Supreme People's Court has the right to approve death penalty. In China, court trials of all death penalty cases of the second instance are open to the public. The state has improved the death penalty review procedure and strengthened supervision over the death penalty review. When the Supreme People's Court reviews a death sentence, it shall question the defendant, and hear the opinion of the defense attorney if the attorney makes the request. During the review of a death sentence, the Supreme People's Procuratorate may advise the Supreme People's Court of its opinions. The reform of the death penalty review procedure guarantees fairness in handling death penalty cases. Since 2007, when the Supreme People's Court began to exercise the right to review death sentences, the standard for the application of the death penalty has been more uniform and the number of death sentences in China has dropped gradually.