China considers ending death penalty for 9 crimes

AP News
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Posted: Oct 27, 2014 8:25 AM

BEIJING (AP) — China may scrap the death penalty for nine out of 55 crimes, including counterfeiting and smuggling nuclear materials, state media said Monday.

China executes more people every year than the rest of the world combined, according to Dui Hua, a U.S.-based rights group that focuses on legal justice.

The proposal to end the death penalty for the nine crimes was submitted to the standing committee of the National People's Congress, which is holding its bi-monthly session this week in Beijing, the official Xinhua News Agency said.

The crimes include illegal fund raising, counterfeiting, smuggling counterfeit currency, organizing prostitution, forcing others to engage in prostitution, and smuggling weapons, ammunition and nuclear materials. They also include two military-related crimes — obstructing others from performing military duties and fabricating rumors to confuse the public during war time.

China currently has 55 crimes that are punishable by death, including murder, burglary, rape and drug-related offenses. Some economic crimes, such as embezzlement and taking bribes, are also punishable by death, although Chinese courts rarely hand out capital punishment for them.

Beijing is taking steps to reduce the number of people executed as well as the number of crimes subject to the death penalty.

A 2007 decision that all death sentences must be reviewed by the supreme court has drastically reduced the number of executions.

Although it remains a state secret how many people China executes each year, Dui Hua estimates that about 2,400 people were executed last year, one-tenth the number in 1983.

China has been gradually reducing the number of crimes punishable by death. In 2011, it dropped the death penalty for 13 crimes such as smuggling precious metals, teaching others criminal methods, and illegally excavating ancient tombs.

The crime of fundraising fraud came into the spotlight in 2012 when a businesswoman was sentenced to death for raising money illegally.

Amid public outcry, the supreme court overturned the lower court decision.

Many said the businesswoman's fundraising strategy was no different from that of many Chinese entrepreneurs who were seeking capital when the rigid monopoly of state-controlled banks left them with few options.