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Fewer Death Sentences
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A major reason for the Supreme People's Court to reassume the authority to review and approve all death sentences was to rein in irresponsible use of capital punishment at local levels.

Initial statistics from the first five months indicate that the change has worked. The remarkable drop in the number of death sentences meted out by local courts testifies to that.

It is good to have fewer people on death row. After all, few crimes deserve the ultimate punishment. And this country's judicial philosophy has an expressed commitment to helping erring souls to correct themselves.

It is encouraging to see the drop in death sentences in the provinces. The local courts have demonstrated a new degree of prudence in a matter of months.

Our national legislative and judicial authorities have worked extensively to refine the rule of law in criminal justice. The approach implemented last year, incorporating both leniency and severity - with the accent on leniency - is a break from China's traditional emphasis on harshness in law enforcement.

The general appeal for leniency in criminal justice and, more specifically, the call for prudent use of the death sentence are both indications of civilized law enforcement. But a more direct cause for the decline in the number of death sentences in the past months could well be the new requirement that all such verdicts be scrutinized by the Supreme Court.

This is additional proof that people behave more responsibly with proper oversight.

Returning authority over death sentences to the Supreme Court is targeted not only at reducing the number of such sentences. With its life-and-death power, the Supreme Court has the obligation to make sure every death sentence it approves can stand the test of time. There is no remedy for execution.
(China Daily June 8, 2007)

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