Death Penalty Gets Tighter Scrutiny in China ; A Review of Cases by China's Supreme Court May Reduce the Potential for Wrongful Convictions

By Peter Ford writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, November 7, 2006 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Death Penalty Gets Tighter Scrutiny in China ; A Review of Cases by China's Supreme Court May Reduce the Potential for Wrongful Convictions


Peter Ford writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


The policemen investigating a murderous assault knew they didn't have enough evidence against their chief suspect, Li Jiuming, to hold up in court. So they decided to do what police here often do, according to Chinese lawyers: torture a confession out of him.

That false confession, presented four years ago to a court in Tangshan, 100 miles east of Beijing, earned Mr. Li, a prison administrator, a death sentence. But even as his lawyer was presenting an appeals judge with testimony that police interrogators had given Li electric shocks, beaten him, forced hot pepper-water up his nose, and made him drink water until it came out his ears, the real culprit was found.

Li was released. But his ordeal, and others like it, prompted China's Supreme Court last week to assume exclusive authority to review all death sentences, in a move that legal scholars say could reduce abuses in imposing the death penalty and potentially cut the number of people executed in China by as much as one-third.

The new law, in a country where the death penalty enjoys strong popular support, is "an important procedural step to prevent wrongful convictions," Supreme Court President Xiao Yang said, according to the official Xinhua news agency. The agency trumpeted the amendment as "the most important reform of capital punishment in China in more than two decades."

China is thought to execute more prisoners each year than the rest of the world's nations put together, though the statistics are secret. Amnesty International says China executed at least 1,770 people last year, but estimates the real figure to be far higher.

The new law "is very positive," says reformist legal scholar Liu Renwen. "It is a signal that our government will pay more and more attention to limiting the use of the death penalty."

Giving the Supreme Court final review authority will reduce the number of death sentences, analysts here say, because it is less vulnerable to outside pressure than lower courts.

Local tribunals, even provincial high courts, "are easily influenced by local authorities" says Chen Weidong, a professor at Beijing People's University Law School. "And local authorities like to use the death penalty because they think it is good for public security."

Zhu Aimin, the lawyer who defended Li against the trumped-up charges of attempted murder, says "very strong pressure from outside" was exerted in his case, though he is still reluctant to identify its exact source.

In 2004, official figures show, the Supreme Court overturned 94 of the 300 death sentences it reviewed, though last year that proportion dropped to about 11 percent.

The new amendment also removes a dangerous anomaly. Currently, 90 percent of death sentences are reviewed by the same provincial courts that heard the appeals, which are unlikely to change their own rulings. Supreme Court hearings will provide "another layer of protection," hopes Mr.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Death Penalty Gets Tighter Scrutiny in China ; A Review of Cases by China's Supreme Court May Reduce the Potential for Wrongful Convictions
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?