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China may drop death penalty for economic crimes

August 24, 2010

Associated Press (AP)
August 23, 2010

BEIJING -- China, which executes more people each
year than any other country, said Monday it is
considering dropping capital punishment for economic crimes.

A draft amendment to the country's criminal code
proposes cutting 13 "economy-related, non-violent
offenses" from the list of 68 crimes punishable
by the death penalty, the official Xinhua New Agency said.

International rights groups have criticized China
for its heavy use of the death penalty, saying it is excessive.

It is not known when the draft will become law.
Xinhua said it was submitted for a first reading
to the Standing Committee of the National
People's Congress. A draft usually has two or
three readings before it is voted on.

The website of the NPC confirmed the draft is
being considered but did not give any details.

Xinhua said the crimes to be dropped from the
list of those punishable by death included
carrying out fraudulent activities with financial
bills and letters of credit, and forging and
selling invoices to avoid taxes. Others included
smuggling cultural relics and precious metals such as gold out of the country.

It quoted Li Shishi, director of legislative
affairs of the NPC Standing Committee, as saying
that because of China's economic development,
dropping the death penalty from some
economic-related crimes would not hurt social stability or public security.

In recent years China has made several changes to
how it decides and carries out the death penalty.

In May, new rules were issued saying evidence
obtained through torture and threats cannot be
used in criminal prosecutions and said such
evidence would be thrown out in death penalty cases that are under appeal.

Those new regulations made it clear that evidence
with unclear origins, confessions obtained
through torture, and testimony acquired through
violence and threats are invalid. It was the
first time Beijing had explicitly stated that
evidence obtained under torture or duress was
illegal and inadmissible in court.

The rulings are important for death penalty
cases, where a flawed system has led to the
deaths of several criminal suspects by torture in detention centers.

In 2008, China's top court said about 15 percent
of death sentence verdicts by lower courts were
found to have problems, the official China Daily newspaper reported in May.
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