China's seniors may be exempt from death penalty

0 CommentsPrint E-mail CRI, July 23, 2010
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China's senior citizens may be exempt from capital punishment in the future, according to a draft amendment to the Criminal Law.

The undated photo shows the Supreme People's Court of the People's Republic of China in Beijing, which conducts the review of death penalty in China. [Photo:]

The City Evening News reported Thursday that the eighth amendment to China's Criminal Law, which may be reviewed by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress in August, highlights the change to death penalty policy, the first time China's lawmakers would lighten death penalty charges.

The report noted that it has not yet been decided whether the age limit will be set at 70 or 75.

In 2003, an 88-year-old man was sentenced to death for murder in central China's Hunan Province, arousing discussion as to whether elderly criminals should be put to death.

Most criminal law experts say it is not humane to sentence the elderly to death because their crimes are a result of their declining IQ and judgment.

Gao Mingxuan, a well-known criminal law professor, told the newspaper that the elderly and children have been given favored criminal treatment since ancient China's Zhou Dynasty. The current criminal law prescribes that capital punishment is not applied to criminals under 18, so it follows that the elderly should also be exempt from the death penalty, he said.

Gao also said criminals over the age of 60 being sentenced to death in China is rare in practice.

"Although not many people will benefit from the exemption, it could be proof of the humanization of criminal law, an expression of civilization and an advancement of society," Gao said.

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