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China high court stresses 'mercy' in death penalty

China high court stresses 'mercy' in death penalty

China's highest court has issued new guidelines on the death penalty that instruct lower courts to limit its use to a small number of "extremely serious" cases.
The Supreme People's Court told courts to use a policy of "justice tempered with mercy" that takes into consideration the severity of the crime, the state-run Xinhua News Agency quoted court spokesman Sun Jungong as saying in a report late Tuesday.
The guidelines reflect the court's call last July for the death penalty to be used less often and for only the most serious criminal cases. China executes more people than any other country, but the high court has been more outspoken recently about the need to tone it down.
The court reviews all death sentences from lower courts before they are carried out, and its comments have indicated more of those death sentences could be overturned.
Still, China faced strong international criticism at the end of December when it executed a British man accused of drug smuggling, despite a plea for mercy from the British prime minister and concerns that the man had mental problems.
Rights group Amnesty International has said China put at least 1,718 people to death in 2008. China does not release an official count.
The death penalty is used even for nonviolent crimes such as corruption or tax evasion. In recent months, China has executed a dairy farmer and a milk salesman for their roles in a vast tainted milk scandal.
It also sentenced to death a businesswoman for cheating investors out of $56 million, and an explosives maker who supplied an illegal iron mine with material that ignited and killed 26 miners.
One man was sentenced to death after killing four people in what was thought to be China's first death penalty for a drunk-driving case. The sentence was later reduced to life in prison.
The new guidelines say minors and senior citizens should be punished with leniency, Xinhua reported. But they also say crimes involving officials who have misused their position should be handled "with severity" _ another strike in China's continuing fight against widespread corruption.
The China Daily newspaper has reported the Supreme People's Court overturned 15 percent of death sentences handed down in 2007 and 10 percent in 2008.


Updated : 2021-10-22 09:36 GMT+08:00