China ends death penalty for 13 economic crimes

Convict sentencing, Wenzhou, April 2004 The revisions mean 55 crimes now carry the death penalty in China

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China has removed 13 offences from the list of 68 crimes punishable by death.

But death penalty campaigners say the revision of the country's criminal code will not necessarily lead to a significant fall in the numbers of criminals executed.

The offences were all economic crimes for which the death penalty was rarely if ever applied.

They include tax fraud, the smuggling of cultural relics or precious metals, tomb robbing and stealing fossils.

When the law change was first proposed last year, the campaigning group Amnesty International said it looked like "legal housekeeping" - these are all crimes seldom if ever punished by execution.

It is impossible to say what impact it will have on the number of people given the death penalty each year here.

That figure is a state secret, but China is thought to execute more people than the rest of the world put together.

Capital punishment will still be available for some economic crimes such as large-scale corruption.

The new legal revisions will also ban the use of capital punishment for offenders over the age of 75.

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