Friday, September 14, 2007

Is China Backing Off the Death Penalty?

I have long regarded the death penalty as little more than state sponsored terrorism. It's purpose, at least in the United States, seems to be two-fold: To terrorize the American underclass, and to pander to people who want criminals punished as harshly as possible. If it actually serves any other purpose in America, I am unaware of it.

In absolute numbers, though, the capital of the death penalty is not the US, but China. As recently as 2006, the Chinese government conducted two thirds of the world's legal executions. In 2005, it executed an estimated 1,770 people, and sentenced 4,000 to death.

Yet, it has recently done two things to reduce the number of state sponsored murders: (1) In January it began requiring all death sentences to be approved by the Supreme People's Court; and (2), very recently the Supreme People's Court ordered all other courts to reserve the death penalty for "an extremely small number of serious offenders".

We'll have to see what those reforms mean in practical measures, but I think they are steps in the right direction. Governments are evil enough without giving them the right to take the lives of their people.


China to Reduce Death Penalty Use

China Executions at "10 Year Low"

Facts and Statistics on the Death Penalty -- Amnesty International


Mahendra said...

Paul, a very, very interesting post, and I'm aghast to find no comments here.

I'm as yet undecided on the moral perspective of capital punishment. These statistics are extremely insightful.

Thanks a lot.

Paul said...

You're welcome, Mahendra! For years, I sat on the fence regarding the death penalty. What finally moved me off the fence was reading about how unfairly it was administered, along with realizing that in the US at least it seems largely to be a means of terrorizing the underclass. Moreover, there are just too many people who were given the death penalty and were later found to be innocent through such means as DNA testing.

Mahendra said...

Interesting. Are there any sentenced to death vs proven innocent by DNA testing statistics available?