China drops death penalty for some economic crimes

originally by: Washington Examiner
25th February 2011

China dropped the death penalty for more than a dozen nonviolent crimes Friday and banned capital punishment for people over the age of 75 in largely symbolic moves that are not expected to significantly reduce executions. China executes more people than any other country, and critics say too many crimes are punishable by death.

The official Xinhua News Agency said it was the first time the Communist government has reduced the number of crimes subject to the death penalty since 1979. The newly revised Criminal Law comes into effect May 1.

But an expert said the move was unlikely to significantly reduce executions, since people convicted of those crimes in the past have rarely received the maximum penalty and capital punishment can still be used to punish other economic crimes such as corruption.

“The big obstacle, I think, is corruption. Because there still is a very strong sense that corrupt officials must die among the Chinese population at large,” said Joshua Rosenzweig, research manager for the U.S.-based human rights group Dui Hua Foundation. “The revulsion for that offense is so strong that there would be a potential political cost to eliminating the death penalty for corruption.”

Official statistics on executions are considered state secrets but the Dui Hua Foundation estimates that China put 5,000 people to death in 2009.

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