[JURIST] The Supreme People's Court of China [official website, in Chinese] on Tuesday issued new guidelines for limiting capital punishment [Xinhua report] in Chinese courts, according to the state-run Xinhua news agency. The guidelines rely on a policy of "justice tempered with mercy" and instruct courts to issue the death penalty [JURIST news archive] only to those who commit "extremely serious" crimes. According to the report, cases involving repeat offenders, gang-related crimes, and government corruption cases should be handled with severity. However, the guidelines also state that reprieves should be issued in certain cases as allowed by law.
China has recently faced significant criticism of its human rights record and use of the death penalty. Last month, a Chinese court sentenced [JURIST report] four people to death in connection with the July Xinjiang riots [JURIST news archive]. At least 26 people have received death sentences for their roles in the riots. In November, the Chinese government carried out the executions [JURIST report] of nine others convicted in connection with the riots for murder, assault, arson, and robbery, after a review by the Supreme People's Court upheld their sentences. Last year, China said that it planned to reduce [China Daily report] the number of executions it conducts. Anti-death penalty group Hands Off Cain [advocacy website] has said that China continues to account for more executions [JURIST report] than any other country. In 2008, the country executed at least 5,000 people, or more than 87 percent of the world's total.