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China death sentences at ten-year low: high court justice

[JURIST] Death sentences [JURIST news archive] handed down by Chinese courts were at a ten-year low in 2006 and the trend continues in 2007, according to a Chinese Supreme Court justice quoted by state media Monday. In response to wrongful convictions and international criticism, China implemented reforms [JURIST report] at the beginning of this year requiring that all death sentences be approved [JURIST report] by the Supreme People's Court [official website]. High court vice-president Jiang Xingchang [official profile] said Monday in Outlook Weekly that fewer people were sentenced to death in 2006 than at any point in the previous decade, and that the reforms have extended the declining numbers into 2007. He offered no statistics but stated that "a relatively large proportion" of death penalty cases authorized by provincial courts were not approved when reviewed by the Supreme People's Court. Reuters has more.

In April, Amnesty International reported [press release] that China continues to lead the world in executions, with 7,000 to 8,000 people believed to have been executed in 2006. In June, Chinese state media reported that during the first five months of 2007, the number of death sentences handed out in cases of first instance dropped approximately 10 percent from the same time last year. In July, the Supreme Court said that guidelines for imposing the death penalty would be standardized [JURIST report]. Last month, a Chinese Communist Party spokesperson defended the use of the death penalty [JURIST report] in political and economic corruption cases, saying it was both appropriate and effective.

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