Asia-Pacific

China may drop death penalty for economic crimes

Convict sentencing, Wenzhou, April 2004
Image caption Sixty-eight crimes currently carry the death penalty in China

China is considering dropping the use of the death penalty to punish several economic crimes, Xinhua has reported.

A draft amendment to the country's criminal code suggests that 13 "economy-related, non-violent offences" be dropped from the death penalty list.

China currently sentences to death people found guilty of 68 specified crimes.

China executes more people every year than any other country, and has drawn criticism for its record.

Amendments

China's state news agency, Xinhua, said the amendment was submitted for a first reading to the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress.

In most cases, a draft law will be read two or three times before being voted for adoption, the agency said.

It quoted Li Shishi, director of Commission for Legislative Affairs of the NPC Standing Committee, as saying the country could cope with the effects of such an amendment.

"Considering China's current economic and social development reality, appropriately removing the death penalty from some economy-related non-violent offences will not negatively affect social stability nor public security," he said.

The 13 crimes that would be downgraded from capital punishment include smuggling out of the country prohibited cultural relics, gold, silver and other precious metals, and rare animals and their products.

Various kinds of fraud would also be exempted from the death penalty, such as fraudulent use of financial bills, letters of credit and tax invoices.

Teaching how to commit crimes and robbing ancient ruins would also be made exempt.

China does not reveal how many people it executes each year - but it is thought to be thousands, reports the BBC's Michael Bristow in Beijing.

If that figure is true, that is more than every other country in the world put together.

Chinese officials say the number of executions has dropped since 2007, after a change in the law meant all death sentences had to be reviewed by a higher court.

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