China’s legislature, the National People’s Congress (NPC) [JURIST news archive], on Sunday announced measures that would subject less crimes to capital punishment if passed. Various government departments are reportedly beginning to study the topic [Reuters report] by bringing in legal scholars on the subject. Capital punishment currently applies to 55 different offenses in China. Human rights groups say that China overuses the death penalty [JURIST report], specifically for non-violent crimes like fraud and illegal money-laundering. The government is not, however, considering dropping the death penalty for crimes of corruption. The Dui Hua Foundation [advocacy website] estimated that 3000 people were executed in China in 2012, compared to 43 in the US.
This is not the first time the NPC has limited the number of crimes subject to death penalty. In 2011 the NPC amended the national criminal law to remove 13 offenses [JURIST report] from the list of crimes subject to the death penalty. Those removed were non-violent economic crimes, including smuggling cultural relics, precious metals and rare animals; fraudulent activities with financial bills and letters of credit; fraudulent export tax refunds; teaching of crime-committing methods; and robbing ancient cultural ruins. During those negotiations though, China still never considered removing the death penalty for crimes of corruption [JURIST report]. The number of people executed has dropped however. According to Hands Off Cain [advocacy group], China executed 5000 people in 2009.