China's Capital Cases Still Secret, Arbitrary (see comments reference below)
By Maureen Fan and Ariana Eunjung Cha
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, December 24, 2008; A01
To find original Go here
BEIJING -- Compared with murder and other violent crimes, the charges against Wo Weihan seemed minor, if a little exotic: copying articles from missile technology magazines in a public library, buying four night-vision equipment scopes, gathering information about the health of senior government leaders and collecting documents from a local Communist Party conference.
Yet the once-respected scientist with his own medical research laboratory in the capital was branded a spy and executed last month after a closed trial. His is one of several recent executions that highlight the secrecy, lack of due process and uneven application of the law that continue to surround capital cases two years after China embarked on a radical overhaul of the way it handles the death penalty.
Starting in 2007, China began for the first time in more than two decades to require a final review of every capital case by the Supreme People's Court. The hope was to reduce the number of executions and bring some consistency to a process that had been handled unevenly by lower courts. The former president of the Supreme People's Court who pushed for the review, Xiao Yang, vowed that the death penalty would be used only on "extremely vile criminals."
As a result of its reforms, China says, the Supreme People's Court overturned about 15 percent of the death sentences handed down by high courts in the first half of 2008. In a brief report in May, the New China News Agency quoted anonymous sources as saying Chinese courts handed down 30 percent fewer death sentences last year compared with 2006. But in a largely closed legal system directed by party committees, the changes have not been as far-reaching as the statistics suggest, and consistency remains a distant goal.
Defendants on death row continue to be executed for such nonviolent crimes as illegal fund-raising, graft, drug dealing and espionage. They are prosecuted and dispatched with a lack of transparency, according to Chinese lawyers who complain of blocked access to their clients and say many confessions are still coerced.
There are also double standards: Public officials accused of embezzling millions receive suspended death sentences that spare their lives, while ordinary citizens convicted of stealing far less die by lethal injection or a single gunshot to the head, according to lawyers and court records.
China remains the world's top executioner -- the Dui Hua Foundation, a human rights group, estimates that China carried out 5,000 to 6,000 executions in 2007. The same year, the United States executed 42 people. On a per-capita basis, China is estimated to have carried out 30 times the number of executions the United States did. (these figures, of course, don't account for the many "disappearances" and extra-judicial killings which take place in both countries,note from blogger Connie)
The Chinese government has a long-standing policy of not commenting on the death penalty and keeps the number of executions secret. There was no response to a fax and phone calls to the Supreme People's Court, the Ministry of Justice and public security officials.
In March, the head of the First Criminal Law Court of the Supreme People's Court, Huang Ermei, said the death penalty was an appropriate deterrent for a country with such fast development and rising crime. Although attitudes were changing among lawyers and academics, the death penalty is "deeply rooted in people's mentality," she said in a report on the Web site of the New China News Agency. "For now, conditions are not ripe for China to abolish the death penalty, not even for a longer period of time," she wrote.
'Shut Her Up by Death'
Prominent Chinese academics have urged Beijing in recent years to abolish the death penalty for nonviolent crimes to bring China in line with international conventions on human rights, said Liu Renwen, a deputy director of the department of criminal law at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
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Find the COMMENTS after this article which are an interesting if sharp summary of how the rest of the world often doesn't favor US over China in Capital/Justice issues
INVITE to readership: How about a dialogue continuing the comments as on the above site. How do you find the US/China to compare on the Death Penalty?
Some of the comments after the above article are as follows - You seems so forgetful about those people held at Guantanamo Bay for so many years and without trial...(not to mention the CIA renditions, disappearances & extra-judicial killings and the potential military executions for detained ahead.)
And your president made a apology over the one million Iraq killing, not to Iraq people, but to Americans because USA spent too much to kill, not the killing itself.
Talking about human rights? Have another think.
Here is an item simply called CAPTIAL PUNISHMENT still on NYTimes website for some background...look on our earlier end of year blogs as well.
In April 2008, the Supreme Court upheld Kentucky’s method of execution by lethal injection, rejecting the claim that officials there administered a common sequence of three drugs in a manner that posed an unconstitutional risk that a condemned inmate would suffer acute yet undetectable pain.
This ended the de facto moratorium on capital punishment that was created when the Court issued a stay in an execution in Mississippi in October 2007.
At the time of the ruling, the executions in Texas, Alabama and other Southern states with large death rows were predicted to resume shortly, but the fractured decision may actually slow executions elsewhere, legal experts said, as lawyers for death row inmates began to undertake fresh challenges based on its newly announced legal standards.
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here Also find END OF YEAR reports on this site between December 20-24 as well as in the sites listed on our LINKS (lower right side of this home page)
Keep the Dialogue going...over & over again, we find that talking, sharing info, mutual challenge can do a world of good...