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Capital punishment is a legal form of punishment in People's Republic of Chinamarker. The People's Republic of Chinamarker currently administers capital punishment for a variety of crimes, but the vast majority of executions are for cases of either aggravated murder or large scale drug trafficking. China executes more people annually than any other nation, although other countries (such as Iranmarker or Singaporemarker) have higher execution rates per capita. Article 49 in the Chinese criminal code explicitly forbids the death penalty for offenders who are under the age of 18 at the time of the crime.

The death penalty is not used in Hong Kongmarker or Macaumarker, which are separate jurisdictions under the "one country, two systems" principle.


Compared to other countries, death sentences are carried out quickly in Chinamarker. After a first trial conducted by an Intermediate people's court concludes with a death sentence, a double appeals process must follow. The first appeal is conducted by a High people's court if the condemned appealed to it, and since 2007, another appeal is conducted automatically (even if the condemned opposed to the first appeal) by the Supreme People's Court of the People's Republic of China in Beijing. The execution is carried out shortly thereafter. As a result of its reforms, China says, the Supreme People's Court overturned about 15 percent of the death sentences handed down by high courts in the first half of 2008. In a brief report in May, the New China News Agency quoted anonymous sources as saying Chinese courts handed down 30 percent fewer death sentences in 2007 compared with 2006.

China has a unique form of sentence; "death sentence with two years' probation" ( ) (discretionary). This sentence is generally reduced to life imprisonment after two years if no new crime is intentionally committed during the probationary period.

In some areas of China, there is no specific execution ground. A scout team chooses a place in advance to serve as the execution ground. In such case, the execution ground normally will have three perimeters: the innermost 50 m is the responsibility of the execution team; the 200 m radius from the center is the responsibility of the People's Armed Police; and the 2 km alert line is the responsibility of the local police. The public is generally not allowed to view the execution.

The role of the executioner was fulfilled in the past by the People's Armed Police. In recent times, the legal police force ( ) assumed this role.

China currently uses two methods of execution. The most common is execution by firearms, which uses an assault rifle to fire a single shot of an expanding hollow point bullet to the head. Lethal injection was introduced in 1997. It differs from its application in the U.S. in that it is carried out in fixed locations as well as in specially modified mobile execution vans. As lethal injection becomes more common, debate has intensified over the fairness of relying on lethal injection to execute high officials convicted of corruption while ordinary criminals get executed by firearms. It is public opinion in China that lethal injection is an easier way for the condemned to die.

In 1950's, the government collected a "bullet fee" (子弹费) from the relatives of the condemned.

Capital punishment in China can be politically or socially influenced. In 2003, a local court sentenced the leader of a triad organization to a death sentence with two years of probation. However, the public opinion was that the sentence was too light. Under public pressure, the supreme court of China took the case and retried the leader, resulting in a death sentence which was carried out immediately.

The Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kongmarker and Macaumarker have separate judiciaries and local laws and do not have capital punishment. This has created a barrier to the creation of proper extradition laws between the SAR and the mainland. It is quite a concern to many residents of the SARs that in many crimes with concurrent jurisdiction the central authorities have claimed the right to try, and potentially sentence to die, residents of Hong Kong and Macau.

Crimes punishable by death

See: Crimes punishable by death in the People's Republic of China

Unlike some other countries practicing capital punishment, in China, financial crimes such as counterfeiting, fraud, tax fraud, corruption, property crimes such as theft, and smuggling cultural relics, gold, silver or other precious metals can be punishable by death. There are some 68 crimes that are eligible for the death penalty in China.

Rates of execution

Considering the size of the Chinese population the relative number of executions in China is still large. Even by the confirmed numbers, the rate of executions in China (0.07 per 100,000 people) is higher than the United States (0.02 per 100,000) and Pakistan (0.05 per 100,000), though Iran (0.25 per 100,000) executes more prisoners per capita. Dui Hua Foundation declares that the true figures were higher; they estimate that China executed between 5,000 and 6,000 people in 2007, down from 10,000 in 2005.

The exact numbers of people executed in China is classified as a state secret; occasionally death penalty cases are posted publicly by the judiciary, as in certain high-profile or politically embarrassing cases. One such example was the execution of former State Food and Drug Administration director Zheng Xiaoyu, which was confirmed by both state television and the official Xinhua News Agencymarker. Other media, such as Internet message boards, have become outlets for confirming death penalty cases usually after a sentence has been carried out; such postings are quite distinguishable from others by a big red tick (check mark) near the bottom.

In 2009, Amnesty International estimated 1718 executions took place during 2008, based on all information available. Amnesty International claimed that the figure was likely to be much higher.


Several features of capital punishment in China have drawn international criticism even from proponents of the death penalty in liberal states .
  • Pressure placed on local and regional bureaucracies under the auspices of the "strike hard" (严打) campaigns has led to the streamlining of capital cases; cases are investigated, cases and appeals are heard, and sentences carried out at rates much more rapid than in other states with developed judicial systems based on liberal principles.
  • Capital punishment in China is not applied on a uniform basis. At times, the government will have so-called "strike-hard" campaigns aiming to warn the public against committing certain crimes. During such times, the courts will adopt a so-called "act fast, act hard" (从快从重) posture and will hand down punishment more severely and quickly.
  • Capital punishment is applied flexibly to a wide range of crimes, some of which are punishable by death in no other judicial system in the world. Economic crimes such as tax fraud have appeared routinely among the dockets of those receiving the death sentence, as have relatively small-scale drug offenses. Capital punishment is also imposed on inchoate offenses, that is, attempted crimes which are not actually fully carried out, including repeat offenses such as attempted fraud. The recidivistic nature of the offenses, not their seriousness per se, is what is adjudicated to merit the capital sentence.
  • Capital punishment in China can be imposed on crimes against national symbols and treasures, such as theft of cultural relics and the killing of pandas .

See also


  1. [1]
  2. China's Capital Cases Still Secret, Arbitrary
  3. Criminal Law of the People's Republic of China
  4. " High Tide of Terror." Time 5 March 1956.
  5. [2]
  6. [3]
  7. China Executes Ex-Food and Drug Chief

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