Essay Sample Discussing Death Penalty in China

Published: 2022-02-23
Essay Sample Discussing Death Penalty in China
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Death penalty
Pages: 6
Wordcount: 1468 words
13 min read

It is of the essence to note that capital punishment is popular in the Chinese criminal justice system. The cultural and conditions of Chinese criminal justice accommodate the prevalence of capital punishment in that country. Capital punishment began getting used in China before the establishment of the People Republic, which took place in 1949 (Hood, 2009). The People's Republic of China has over the years come under spirited international criticism because of the use of capital punishment. Research indicates that nowadays the death penalty is an integral part of the Chinese legal system because it is meted out for various forms of offenses in that country (Hood, 2009). Studies focusing on the phenomenon of the death penalty in china faces a lot of challenges (Hood, 2009). That is because some aspects linked to unraveling the issue of capital punishment are treated as a state secret. Also, it is a taboo topic that does not expose itself to open discussion. With that in mind, the available information in connection to Chinese capital punishment is somehow scanty. However, over time, the ethical and political debate surrounding the essence of applying capital punishment has led to a developing consciousness regarding its legality.

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A new school of thought has sprung up in recent times regarding the issue of capital punishment in China. It has led to the emergence of a new generation of researchers in the field of Chinese law (Lu & Miethe, 2010). The initialization of that new generation of radical law scholars came up with an openly abolitionist approach for quashing capital punishment in China. In the year 2000, during the debate dubbed "Morality of the Death Penalty," which was hosted by Peking University, Professor Xinglong introduced the abolitionist approach (Hood, 2009). Professor Xinglong based his rationale on Western themes that have over the years gained support among other advocates of the abolitionist approach. Those themes focus on the birth of justice seeking retribution and the assumed effectiveness attached to capital punishment (Hood & Deva, 2013). That is by reflecting on the particular challenges that have been faced by past efforts of abolishing the death penalty. The first core barrier to abolition approach is the Chinese culture, which does not value the life of an accused person (Hood & Deva, 2013). Chinese jurists' arguments are based on a principled plan rather than a flexible approach because the culture informs them. Secondly, the impact of anti-religion policy, which is popular in mainland China plays a critical role in the advancement of capital punishment (Lu & Miethe, 2010). Such an undercurrent act as a force to reckon when addressing the issue of the death penalty. These challenges are aggravated to form a situation where any abolitionist approach becomes challenging to implement in that country.

Another dimension of modern debates regarding the issue of capital punishment among Chinese lawyers is that they are beginning to see some absorption of modern law principles in china. The arguments contests have over the years led to the laying of the foundation for the gradual reconstruction of the Chinese criminal justice system. It all started with the great reformers attached to Qing dynasty, who is credited for the first forms of abolitionist approach (Lu & Miethe, 2010). Over time, the abolitionist approach took a new turn in the 1980s and 1990s, where the attempts to humanize and rationalize capital punishment started (Hood & Deva, 2013). This period was characterized by limitation of the crimes that qualify for capital punishment, the abolition of legal torture, banning of cruel punishment, and the abolition of public executions. Scholars believe that these factors act as the core pillars of the necessary process of self-limitation by the government of China (Hood & Deva, 2013). Hence, a good start for the gradual implementation of any abolitionist policy. What followed was the republican era that facilitated incredible progress in the application and codification of the tools of the contemporary judicial system. However, the current debate regarding the Chinese criminal justice system bears full credit for providing a thorough re-examination of that country's communist era (Lu & Miethe, 2010). That is by highlighting the challenges and contradictions which are faced by various forms of abolitionist policies.

The China Against the Death Penalty (CAPD) is the first Chinese organization to get vocal regarding abolition of the death penalty in that country. CAPD was formed in the year 2010 in Beijing with an ultimate goal of abolishing capital punishment (World Coalition., 2019). It is a non-governmental organization and was started by a Chinese human rights activist known as Teng Biao. The core aim of CAPD is pushing for the abolishment of capital punishment in China by facilitating discussion conferences, offering legal aid, sponsoring documentaries, and financing research that is aimed at studying the phenomenon of capital punishment. Over the years, CAPD has been collecting and analyzing annual data in connection to the issue under review (World Coalition., 2019). Besides CAPD play a spirited active role in correcting judgement that lead to wrong convictions by offering legal aid program. In ancient Chinese society, capital punishment held a critical position in Chinese criminal justice system. However, nowadays organization such as CAPD and other human rights activists who contribute to the abolition approach, have aided in creating awareness of the pros and cons of capital punishment (World Coalition., 2019). They largely argue that the death penalty is anti-human and fails to prevent crime. The worldwide campaign against capital punishment has been growing rapidly but it has faced a lot of challenge creating any form of impact on the prominence of death penalty in China.

The unavoidable trend of modern world is to eradicate capital punishment completely. That trend has acted as the catalyst for the growing level of awareness among Chinese citizens regarding the negative impact of death penalty. At the moment there are 68 crimes which are punishable by capital punishment (Lu & Miethe, 2010). Among them 24 are violent while 44 are non-violent crimes (Lu & Miethe, 2010). 6 of the non-violent crimes are linked to national security, 3 are viewed as danger for public security, 10 are linked to military discipline, 16 are connected to economic crimes, while the rest are linked to other forms of wrong-doings (Lu & Miethe, 2010). However, in 2011 the NPC amended the constitution to remove 13 non-violent economic crimes from the list that is punishable by capital punishment (Lu & Miethe, 2010). This has been recorded as one of the main steps undertaken by the Chinese government in reforming its controversial death penalty system. However, critics believe that the move was informed by the current global campaign against capital punishment.

Capital punishment in China is legal. However, the issue of the death penalty is a serious one in china because of the systematic way in which it is used in the community. The exact figure of people executed by the Chinese legal system is shrouded in secrecy, but studies indicate that the Chinese government executed that the highest number of offenders that any other country in the world (Lu & Miethe, 2010). Amnesty International is one of the not for profit-making organizations that have devoted resources to study the state of events regarding Chinese capital punishment. That organization believes that between 1990 and 1999, the Chinese government subjected approximately 27 thousand people to capital punishment (World Coalition., 2019). According to World Coalition (2019), an "Amnesty International report shows that the number of executions in China are as follows: in 2000, at least 1000 people in China were executed; 2002, 1060+ executed; 2005, 1770+ executed (and 8000 given the death penalty); 2006, 2010+ executed (7500 to 8000 sentenced); 2007, 470 executed and 1860 sentenced; 2008, 1718+ executed (7003 sentenced)." This is a clear indicator that every year, thousands of Chinese citizens are executed by the government. Such numbers are horrifying because they translate to almost two-thirds of the people subjected to the execution globally by their government. Hence, the emergence of rising criticism by the international community in its endeavor to appeal to the Chinese government on ethics and tenets of human rights.

In conclusion, by all accounts, it is evident that China is the leading country in the world in exercising legal executions. Also, the prolonged historical use of death sentencing in China is linked to its culture. Hence, making China an ideal case study for the phenomenon of death penalty practice and law. There is need to undertake more research on how to deal with the issue of capital punishment because overtime the ethical and political debate surrounding the essence of applying capital punishment has led to a developing consciousness regarding its legality.


Hood, R. (2009). Abolition of the Death Penalty: China in World Perspective. Retrieved from

Hood, R., & Deva, S. (2013). Confronting Capital Punishment in Asia: Human Rights, Politics and Public Opinion. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Lu, H., & Miethe, T. D. (2010). China's Death Penalty: History, Law and Contemporary Practices. London, England: Routledge.

World Coalition. (2019). China Against the Death Penalty (CADP). Retrieved from

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