In many countries the charge for a crime is capital punishment, one of the most serious ways of punishing someone’s wrongs. Whilst many countries use capital punishment to punish crimes such as murders, countries like the People’s Republic of China use it as a sentence from crimes of drug trafficking to murder and tax evasion.
China is known to execute the highest number of people annually although it is believed by Watchdog groups the actual number of executions exceeds offical-recorded numbers. In 2009 the Dui Hua foundation estimated the number of deaths at around 5000, a number that is more than all other nations combined. The real official figure is of course a state secret.
When an offender goes to court and if their trial run by the Intermediates People’s Court ends in the death penalty, a double appeals process must follow. The first appeal is held by a High People’s Court if the condemned agreed, and automatically another appeal will follow held by Supreme Republic’s Court of the Republic of China, regardless of whether the offender opposes it or not. As a result of the appeal process, around 15% of the death penalty. the Supreme Court overturned convictions. In a brief report in May Xinhua claimed from anonymous sources that Chinese courts handed down 30% fewer death sentences in 2007 compared with 2006. (1)
In China there are two forms of capital punishment: death by firing squad and lethal injection that are normally carried out by the legal Police Force. Capital punishment has been imposed on attempted crimes like repeated fraud, murder, corruption and property theft. Since 1949, the most common method of execution has been by firing squad, however when the lethal injection got introduced in 1996, lethal injection has started to overshadow the traditional method. In 2010, the Chinese authorities moved to have the lethal injection as the only method of execution as was dominant in some provinces and municipalities. (1)
Any offender under the age of 18 at the time of the crime is immune to the death penalty punishment.
Chinese Government officials claim that the Chinese public are in full support of capital punishments; with the belief that public opinion polls demonstrate this. However despite a survey run by the Chinese Academy of Social sciences saying 95% were in support, these polls were of questionable value. Research conducted in 2007 for Beijing, Hunan, and Guangdong showed only 58% in favour with further questioning on the use of capital punishment for certain crimes pushing it down even further. It is believed by many that Government officials should reveal the execution statistics to the public. (1)
As a result of its reputation as the highest user of capital punishment, Chinese authorities have been pursuing a number of measures to reduce the number of capital offences and limit the use of the death penalty. The Congress Standing Committee adopted an amendment to reduce the number of crimes down from 68 to 55.
China has been criticised worldwide for the use of the death penalty, especially for its use in non-violent crimes, allegations of the use of torture to exact confessions, legal proceedings that do not reflect international standards and most significantly the Government’s refusal to release official execution statistics. Even more seriously the Coalition to investigate the persecution of Falun Gong of using the organs of executed prisoners for black market trade. In 2009, Chinese authorities acknowledged that two thirds of organ transplant could be traced back to executed prisoners. (1)