Brutal Murder of Taiwanese Boy Triggers Debate Over Nation's Death Penalty Policy

on December 12 2012 5:03 PM
Taipei, Taiwan
Taipei, Taiwan Wikipedia

The brutal murder of a 10-year-old Taiwanese boy has ignited a debate between an angry public and human rights activists over Taiwan's suspended death penalty. 

According to the China Post, a Taiwanese newspaper, the man suspected of slitting the throat of the young boy in a local arcade, Zeng Wen-qin, 29,  reportedly said he was going to have free board and lodging during his imprisonment, expecting the maximum sentence he would receive for killing "only one person" to be life imprisonment. 

Now, the head prosecutor of the Tainan District Prosecutors Office, Tseng Chao-kai, announced that he will not rule out seeking the death sentence for the suspect. 

Taiwan currently reserves the death penalty for very serious crimes, but the island's politicians have been divided about maintaining it for years. Taiwan has begun trying to phase out the death penalty completely, but for now, judiciary officials can only control when the death sentence is applied. 

Public anger over the murder reached a boiling point after the suspect, Zeng, said he "targeted kids because they were less likely to fight back" and that going to jail would free him of having to pay for living expenses. 

A group of protesters gathered at the Taiwanese Justice Ministry last week, outraged over the notion that Zeng was looking forward to his virtually inevitable prison sentence, and demanding that death row inmates be executed. Following the protests, the Ministry of Justice stated that though a timetable had not been confirmed, "executions must be carried out."

As public pressure begins to mount from Taiwan's population to use the death penalty on Zeng, human rights groups have spoken up and are advocating Taiwan fully remove capital punishment. 

Roseanne Rife, the Head of East Asia for Amnesty International, was quoted in The Parliament, a political magazine in the EU, firing back at the Taiwanese Ministry of Justice's encouragement of the death penalty.

"This is a deplorable statement by the Ministry of Justice, and all the more disappointing because of the government's earlier stated commitment to move away from the death penalty," Rife said. 

Rife is referring to the government's agreement to implement the U.N. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the continued assertion that they would eventually abolish the death penalty completely.

"Regardless of how shocking it is, one individual incident cannot justify a return to the implementation of the death penalty. Carrying out such executions now would represent a serious step backward for the Taiwanese government," she said. 

A China-based representative of the External Action Service (EAS), the EU's diplomatic corps, Joelle Hivonnet, echoes EU's views regarding capital punishment.

"Human rights is the golden thread that runs through the EU's foreign policy," Hivonnet said in The Parliament. 

"We sincerely hope that Taiwan will not resume the death penalty but, rather, will strive for its abolition." 

Taiwan currently has 61 people on death row, but no executions have been performed this year.

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