In a major step to safeguard human rights, the Supreme People's Court is expected to assume all powers to review and approve death sentences from January 1.
Shen Deyong, vice-president of the Supreme People's Court, made the announcement on Friday at a session of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC), the country's top legislature.
A draft of an amendment to the Organic Law on the People's Courts was submitted on Friday to the NPC Standing Committee and will be discussed by legislators in panels on Saturday.
Voting on the proposed amendment will probably take place on Tuesday, the final day of the current session.
The Organic Law on the People's Courts authorizes higher people's courts at provincial, municipal and autonomous region levels to review death sentences involving murder, rape, robbery, explosion and other serious violations of public security.
But death sentences in other types of cases, economic crimes for example, must still be approved by the Supreme People's Court.
It is necessary to revise the stipulation in the death sentence approval system to ensure the consistent administration of justice, Supreme People's Court President Xiao Yang said.
"Cases in which the death sentence has been issued should be submitted to the Supreme People's Court for approval except in those cases, in which the judgments were issued by the Supreme People's Court itself," the proposed revision states.
Normally, laws to be approved by the NPC Standing Committee require three rounds of discussions before a vote is taken.
In fact, a revision to the Criminal Procedure Law in 1996 and the Criminal Law amendment in 1997 both had clear stipulations requiring death sentences to be approved by the Supreme People's Court. But such stipulations have not been officially implemented.
A nationwide criminal trial work conference is expected to be held by the end of this year to prepare for the reform.
The Supreme People's Court and higher courts at the provincial, municipal and autonomous region levels have already taken steps in preparation for the move.
Starting in July, all appeals in death sentence cases were required to be heard in open session.
In the past, provincial, municipal and autonomous region courts normally approved death sentences themselves after reviewing legal documents.
The Supreme People's Court has also added three criminal tribunals to be in charge of death sentence reviews.
Also on Friday, NPC Standing Committee members heard reports on discussions of a draft of the anti-money-laundering law, a draft revision to the property law and draft changes of an amendment to the Law on the Protection of Minors.
(China Daily October 28, 2006)