30 Jul 2009

World's most prolific state executioner may cut back

8:34 pm on 30 July 2009

China, the world's most prolific state executioner, may drastically reduce the number of people it executes.

The vice-president of the Supreme People's Court, Zhang Jun, says that in future the court will impose more suspended death sentences.

Two years ago, when the court regained from provincial high courts the power of final approval of death penalties, it was also given the power to review death sentences handed down by lower courts. That has already led to fewer executions.

Even so, Amnesty International says China executed 1718 people in 2008 - 72% of all those formally executed in the world.

Sixty types of crime carrry death penalty

But the China Daily quotes Mr Zhang as saying the number of executions will be reined in. The ultimate punishment should be handed down only to "an extremely small number" of serious offenders, the paper says - "those who have committed extremely serious or heinous crimes that lead to grave social consequences".

Sixty types of crime carry the death penalty in China, including many non-violent and economic crimes. There are no plans to abolish capital punishment.