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October 27, 2005
China death penalty reforms
China has long been the capital punishment capital of the world. But it seems years of pressure has brought about modest change. The Supreme People's Court is re-asserting control over meting out capital punishment. The Xinhua article makes interesting and disturbing reading:
The Supreme Court will no longer permit provincial courts to review death sentences so as to ensure that capital punishment is meted out meticulously and fairly, Chief Justice Xiao Yang, also president of the Supreme People's Court, said Tuesday...China still practices capital punishment as a deterrent to preserve social stability, but "as few executions as possible should be carried out and as cautiously as possible, in order to avoid wrongful executions," the top judge said...While these changes are welcome, the implications are staggering. First and foremost, the implication is there have been potentially many executions in the past that were unjustified. Secondly, the rush to execution of violent criminals has meant the law has been flouted since 1983. So this measure can be seen as a re-assertion of rule of law in China. Or it could be seen as wayward provincial courts being smacked down by the Supreme Court.
Either way, it's a positive step forward. It's a shame so many have had to die to get there.
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