China retains the death penalty for many ordinary crimes and carries out the highest number of executions in the world. In 2011, China announced the abolition of the death penalty for 13 non-violent economic offences, thereby reducing the number of capital crimes from 68 to 55. Most recently in September 2012, the Government issued a white paper on judicial reform which stipulated that the death penalty should be “strictly controlled and prudently applied”.
China has signed but not ratified the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in 1998. It has neither signed or ratified the Frist Optional Protocol to the ICCPR allowing for the right of individual petition nor the Second Optional Protocol aiming at the abolition of the death penalty.
Between 2007-2009, we worked in partnership with the Great Britain China Centre and the Irish Centre for Human Rights on a EU funded project aimed at reform of the death penalty. This involved developing and implementing strategies designed to ensure compliance with the ICCPR, and steps that need to be taken to restrict the death penalty in China. In June 2007, we contributed to the launch seminar in Beijing and in August 2007, we coordinated a themed workshop held in Beijing for the Legislative Affairs Committee of the National Peoples’ Congress. In June 2009, we implemented two workshops held in Beijing and Guangzhou for judges of the Supreme People’s Court, and for provincial judges who also have the discretion to impose the death sentence. Professor Roger Hood, Professor Martin Wasik, Saul Lehrfreund and Parvais Jabbar presented papers at the workshop. Copies of the papers delivered at the three workshops can be found here.
In September 2012, we met with three Chinese lawyers from the organisation, China Against Death Penalty and provided them with an overview of our work and discussed the applicability of our litigation strategies in China.
In 2013/2014, we are seeking to work in partnership with The Rights Practice, a UK-based NGO, in implementing a workshop on international law, practice and advocacy for Chinese lawyers. The purpose of the workshop will be to build the capacity of leading Chinese defence lawyers to draw on international law and practice in their defence of death penalty cases and in their advocacy of death penalty related law reform. The project is currently awaiting funding approval.