Judges and translators of ethnic minorities who can speak both
Mandarin and their ethnic languages are in great demand in dealing
with death sentences involving ethnic suspects, especially when
China becomes cautious in handling death penalty.
"Ethnic language translators are in great demand, especially in
the legal field," said Rozi Ismail, chief judge of northwest
China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, adding legal
document translation requires both patience and accuracy.
The country's most important reform on capital punishment in the
past two decades requires all death sentences be reviewed and
approved by the Supreme People's Court beginning January this
Each death sentence must be reviewed by three judges, who are
required to check facts, laws and criminal procedures and
precedent, according to the reform.
In response to the change, judges of minority ethnic groups have
been selected from local courts in Xinjiang to strengthen the
review of death penalty, and a special department has been set up
to translate legal files from ethnic languages into the Mandarin,
the country's official language, said Rozi Ismail, president of the
Higher People's Court of Xinjiang.
In Xinjiang which makes up about a sixth of China's land
territory, more than 60 percent of the 20 million residents belong
to 53 ethnic minorities including the Uygur, Kazak, Tajik and
China has a total of 55 ethnic minorities, 21 of which boast their
own written languages. Han people account for more than 90 percent
of the country's total population.
Although there are more than 100,000 ethnic language
translators, most of whom have not received professional training,
official figures show, and the China Ethnic Language Translation
Center plans to train translators and standardize ethnic
"Even a wrongly-translated word can lead to a wrong death
penalty and such loss can not be compensated," said Rozi Ismail,
who is in Beijing to attend the annual parliamentary session as a
He said the death penalty reform requires judges with abundant
open trial experience, who also master ethnic languages, to handle
cases involving ethnic suspects.
The right to issue death sentence was given to provincial courts
in 1983 to deal with surging crimes. On Jan. 1 this year, the
Supreme People's Court took over the responsibility and promised
stricter and more appropriate application of capital
(Xinhua News Agency March 14, 2007)