Capital penalty

(China Daily)
Updated: 2010-08-24 09:35
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More important than criminalizing such widely denounced behavior as drunk driving are the proposed amendments to the Criminal Law, including the cancellation of the death penalty for some non-violent crimes.

Unlike the proposed new crimes, which are aimed at deterring new threats to the public's sense of security, the 13 crimes that are to be exempted from capital punishment are mostly violations of ownership. Under the present Criminal Law, trafficking in cultural relics, precious metals, rare animals, and even common commodities may qualify for the death penalty.

Crimes of such nature can cause tremendous financial losses, to the State or individual citizens, and are thus worth severe penalties. Yet they hardly justify the depriving of life.

In reality, in spite of the intimidating validity of capital punishment, over the years, few have been sentenced to death for these crimes.

Revoking capital punishment, which is increasingly rarely applied for these crimes, will not result in major differences in the courts' decisions in dealing with such cases. But, once it passes legislative scrutiny, it will represent great progress in Chinese jurisprudence.

We understand the legislative authorities' justification of the need for the death sentence in our criminal code - some of the most dangerous threats to public well-being call for the harshest of penalties as the ultimate deterrent. On the other hand, there is the widening consensus that the scope of its application must be strictly controlled.

Removing the death sentence from such crimes will honor the authorities' promise to gradually reduce the use of the capital penalty.