China's top legislature on Saturday adopted amendments to the Criminal Law, removing the death penalty for nine crimes, and ruling out commutation for most corrupt figures.
The 9 crimes punishable by death include smuggling weapons, ammunition, nuclear materials or counterfeit currency; counterfeiting currency; raising funds by means of fraud; arranging for or forcing another person to engage in prostitution; obstructing a police officer or a person on duty from performing his duties; and fabricating rumors to mislead others during wartime.
After removing the death penalty for these crimes, those convicted will face a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
The amendments were voted in by lawmakers at the end of a six-day bimonthly session of the National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee.
The move to limit the use of the death penalty comes in the wake of judicial reform pushed forward by the Communist Party of China in recent years to gradually reduce the number of crimes subject to the penalty.
It is the second time China has reduced the number of crimes punishable by death since the Criminal Law took effect in 1979.
In 2011, the NPC Standing Committee dropped the death penalty for 13 economic-related non-violent crimes including smuggling cultural relics, gold and silver; carrying out fraud related to financial bills; forging or selling forged exclusive value-added tax invoices; teaching criminal methods; and robbing ancient cultural ruins.
Under the amended Criminal Law, which will take effect on Nov. 1, the number of crimes punishable by death is 46.
According to the amendments, criminals convicted on serious corruption charges who have received a 2-year suspended death sentence will face life imprisonment after the 2 years.
This aims to "safeguard judicial fairness" and prevent "the most corrupt criminals from serving shorter prison terms through commutation," according to the top legislature.
It targets officials who illegally seek commutation, parole or non-prison sentences.
The amendments also impose tougher sentences for assaults on police officers on duty and clarify the crime of contempt of court, so as to safeguard judicial authority.
Nine lawyers were recently taken under coercive measures, after they used Beijing Fengrui law firm as a platform to provoke trouble and disturb social order.
According to the current law, lawyers can be disbarred if they are convicted of disrupting or interfering with due proceedings or inciting others to raise trouble.
The new law adds crimes regarding cyber security, enhancing protection of citizens' personal information and ascertaining responsibilities for Internet service providers failing to fulfill duties of network security management.
The revised law says that those counterfeiting passports, social security cards and driving licenses will also face punishment.
Organizing cheating in exams and bringing civil litigations based on fabricated facts to pursue illegitimate interests, are also listed as crimes that are punishable by imprisonment up to 7 years.
In its stipulations against terrorism, the revised law adds several items to crack down more heavily on terrorism.
Those promoting terrorism and extremism by producing and distributing related materials, releasing information, instructing in person or through audio, video or information networks will face more than 5 years in prison in serious cases. Those who instigate violent terror activities will also face the same punishment.
Harsher punishment will also be imposed on those involved in cults. In serious cases, the maximum punishment may be extended to life imprisonment, the new law says. Previously, the maximum sentence for those found guilty of cult-related crimes was 15 years in prison.
Source: CRIEnglish, August 30, 2015
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