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China: Death Penalty Crimes to Be Reduced

(Aug. 31, 2010) On August 23, 2010, a proposed amendment to the Criminal Law of the People's Republic of China was presented to the Standing Committee of China's National People's Congress (NPC). The proposal, if adopted,, would reduce the number of crimes that can be punished with a death sentence under the Criminal Law. This is the eighth amendment since the current Criminal Law took effect in 1997. (Xingfa Xiuzheng An Cao'an Ni Quxiao Daoqie Zui Deng 13 ge Sixing Zuiming [Draft Amendment to the Criminal Law Would Remove Death Penalty for Thirteen Crimes, Including Larceny], XINHUA (Aug. 23, 2010),

The 13 crimes that would no longer be subject to the death penalty under the amendment are all non-violent, economic crimes, as follows:

– smuggling of cultural relics;

– smuggling of precious metals;

– smuggling of precious animals or their products;

– smuggling of ordinary freight and goods;

– fraud connected with negotiable instruments;

– fraud connected with financial instruments;

– fraud connected with letters of credit;

– false invoicing for tax purposes;

– forging and selling value-added tax invoices;

– larceny;

– instructing in criminal methods;

– excavating and robbing ancient cultural sites or ancient tombs; and

– excavating and robbing fossil hominids and fossil vertebrate animals. (Id.)

As Li Shishi, Director of the Legislative Affairs Commission of the NPC Standing Committee pointed out, there are in total 68 crimes under the current Criminal Law that can be punished by death; he admitted that this is too many and that the number should be reduced. (Id.)

It is believed that the proposed amendment is one of several recent moves by the Chinese government to soften its image as the world's biggest executioner. (Jonathan Watts, China Moves to Reduce Number of Crimes Punishable by Death, GUARDIAN (Aug. 23, 2010),
.) According to Teng Biao, a law professor at Beijing's China University of Political Science and Law, it is actually not common in China for suspects in non-violent, economic cases to be sentenced to death without having the execution permanently suspended. According to Teng, in recent years, death sentences have seldom been applied to the proposed 13 crimes, if at all. Crimes of corruption, including embezzlement and bribe-taking, are not included in the proposed list and therefore can still be punished by execution after the amendment takes effect. (Liu Zhijie, Teng Biao: Quxiao 13 Xiang Sizui Yiyi Hezai? [What's the Meaning of Removing 13 Death Penalty Crimes?], CAIXIN (Aug. 24, 2010),