China’s top legislature has adopted an amendment to the Criminal Law removing the death penalty for nine crimes and limiting the ability of those convicted of corruption from continually seeking reduced sentences. The revisions, passed by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress on Saturday, will take effect on Nov 1.
Crimes that will no longer subject to the death penalty include: ・ smuggling weapons, ammunition, nuclear materials or counterfeit currency; ・ counterfeiting money and fraudently raising funds; ・ arranging for or forcing another person to engage in prostitution; ・ obstructing military personnel from performing their duties; ・ fabricating rumors to mislead others during wartime. When the law takes effect, the number of crimes subject to capital punishment will be reduced to 46.
Since the late 1990s, there has been a consistent move to reduce the use of the death penalty and gradually reduce the number of capital crimes, said Lang Sheng, deputy head of the Law Committee of the NPC Standing Committee. Lang said the decision to abolish the death penalty in the nine crimes was made after thorough research. “After deliberation on the sentencing of the nine crimes, we found the death penalty was rarely applied,” he said. In other cases, few crimes of that type were prosecuted. The revision reflects the changing views of society and the legal community, Lang said.
The legislature also sought to restrict the ability of people convicted of corruption to repeatedly seek reduced sentences. Currently, those who are convicted of serious corruption offenses might receive a death sentence with a two-year reprieve. During the suspended death sentence period, felons typically apply for sentence reductions, often leading to sentences of life imprisonment. The law allows them, thereafter, to appeal for further reductions－commutation of their sentences, parole or non-prison sentences. The amendment changes that, allowing the courts to decline further sentence reductions. “Courts will be allowed to pass a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of commutation or parole in corruption cases,” the Law Committee said in a report to the NPC.
The amendment to the Criminal Law also changed rape laws so that sex with girls under 14, whether consensual or not, is rape. The change comes amid public outrage over recent offenders who were charged with lesser crimes in such cases.