Chinese lawmakers are considering scrapping the death penalty for nine crimes ranging from prostitution to wartime crimes. The change is being considered after an amendment to the country’s criminal law was submitted for first reading on Monday to the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, or NPC.
The draft amendment calls to repeal the death penalty for crimes including smuggling weapons, ammunition, nuclear material and counterfeit currency; counterfeiting currency; raising funds by means of fraud; arranging for or forcing another person to engage in prostitution; obstructing a commander or a person on duty from performing his duties; and fabricating rumors to mislead others during wartime.
Last year, lawmakers had decided to gradually reduce the number of crimes subject to the death penalty, Li Shishi, director of the Legislative Affairs Commission of the NPC Standing Committee said, according to Xinhua. And, if the latest amendment is accepted it would be the second such move by the NPC since the country’s criminal code was drafted in 1979.
“Exempting the 13 crimes from the death penalty has not caused negative effects for public security, and the social response to reducing the number of crimes subject to the death penalty has been positive,” Li said, according to Xinhua.
If the draft amendment is approved, people convicted of these crimes may instead face a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, Xinhua reported, citing the draft amendment.
In China, 55 offences qualify for the death penalty and, according to Reuters, the number of people executed every year is a closely guarded state secret. However, scholars reportedly say that the reduction in the number of crimes subject to the death penalty will not significantly reduce the number of executions.
Dui Hua Foundation, a San Francisco-based organization that works on freeing political prisoners in China, estimates that nearly 2,400 people were executed in 2013, about three times more than all countries with death penalties in the world combined. Only 39 people were executed in the U.S. that year.