China drops death penalty for 13 economic crimes

Saturday, February 26, 2011

SHANGHAI - China has dropped the death penalty for more than a dozen non-violent, economic crimes for offenders over the age of 75.

The 13 economic offences will be removed from the list of 68 crimes punishable by death sentence, said Lang Sheng, who heads the legal team of the Standing Committee to the National People’s Congress (NPC), China’s top legislature, the Shanghai Daily reported Saturday.

The NPC standing committee had passed the amendment to the criminal law Friday.

The 13 crimes include forging and selling invoices to avoid taxes, smuggling cultural relics, rare animals and their products, precious metals like gold and silver, and robbing ancient cultural ruins.

Lang said the death penalty was still necessary for other crimes such as corruption.

After the amendment, capital punishment will apply to 55 offences.

The change marks the first reduction in the number of crimes subject to the death penalty since the criminal law took effect in 1979.

The revised law will become effective May 1.

The amendment was meant to further implement the principle of justice tempered with mercy, Lang said.

“Abolishing the death penalty for these 13 crimes is a big step,” Lang said. “Obviously, we have still retained the death penalty for a number of other crimes.”

Mou Xinsheng, a deputy to the NPC Standing Committee, said that to reduce the number of crimes punishable with death was in line with international practice and China’s reality.

“But it is not the right time to totally abrogate capital punishment in China,” Mou said. “Incidences of crime remain comparatively high, especially violent ones.”

Under the amendment, the death penalty will not be imposed on people aged 75 or older at the time of trial, unless they commit murder with exceptional cruelty. Previously, only convicts younger than 18 and pregnant women were exempt from capital punishment.

Other changes to the criminal law passed include imposing the death penalty for organ traffickers, the daily reported.

The scope of punishment for subversion also widened to include the funding of domestic and foreign groups to commit crimes that endanger national security, it said.

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