China executes more convicted criminals every year than any other country. The exact number is a state secret but is estimated to be in the thousands. Adding up Amnesty International’s figures, this Bystander reckons that China executes more than the rest of the world combined.
One reason is the lengthy list of crimes — 68 of them — that carry the death penalty. That list may now be culled to 55, according to Xinhua. Some white-collar crimes may come off the list including 13 “economy-related, non-violent offences” such as fraudulent use of financial bills, letters of credit and value added tax invoices. Smuggling gold, silver and other precious metals out of the country would also be exempted. Corruption, considered an economic crime, seems to be one that will still be considered a capital offense. A draft amendment to the country’s criminal code has been submitted for a first reading to the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, so there is a way to go before any change happens.
The number of executions has been falling since 2007 when the Supreme Court restarted reviewing all cases in which a lower court had imposed the death penalty. Xinhua quotes Chen Zexian, a criminal law expert at the China Law Society, as saying that death penalties are mainly imposed for only seven or eight crimes, mostly violent ones such as murder, rape and robbery, so culling the list of capital offences by 13 may not have a significant impact on the numbers, especially as they are all economic crimes.