China's newly revised Criminal Law has removed 13 offences from the list of 68 crimes punishable by death, according to the annual work report of the Supreme People's Court.
It was the first time the People's Republic of China has reduced the number of crimes subject to the death penalty since the Criminal Law took effect in 1979.
The 13 crimes were economic-related non-violent offences, including smuggling cultural relics, gold, silver, and other precious metals and rare animals and their products out of the country; carrying out fraudulent activities with financial bills; carrying out fraudulent activities with letters of credit; the false issuance of exclusive value-added tax invoices to defraud export tax refunds or to offset taxes; the forging or selling of forged exclusive value-added tax invoices; the teaching of crime-committing methods; and robbing ancient cultural ruins.
The court is expected to introduce a unified guideline over the use of the death sentence soon.
At present, the vast majority of immediate executions are imposed for the most serious offences of either aggravated murder or large scale drug trafficking, the report said.
Courts were told on Tuesday to pronounce a two-year suspension of execution for condemned criminals if an immediate execution is not deemed necessary.
Such sentences are generally commuted to life imprisonment after a two-year period if the convicted person is of good behavior and has not committed any other crimes.
The Supreme People's Court (SPC) said, in the report, that death penalty should only be applied to "a very small number" of criminals who have committed "extremely serious crimes."
Under the a policy of "justice tempered with mercy," capital punishment reprieves should be granted as long as they are allowed by law, the supreme court said.
China has been reforming its death penalty system since an amendment to the Criminal Procedure Law in 2007 made the Supreme People's Court the only authority to have final approval of all death sentences.
The supreme court has overturned 10 percent of all death sentences nationwide since 2007 when it took back the right of final review from lower courts.