03/04/2005, 00.00
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Supreme People's Court claims absolute jurisdiction over death penalty

Legal experts question reform, say it is unreasonable.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The Supreme People's Court of China wants to prohibit higher people's courts in provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions from passing death penalties.

This move is part of a plan to 'recentralise' judicial power in a single central institution.

Legal experts have questioned the proposal, saying it would make the current court structure redundant.

For He Weifang, from Beijing University's School of Law, to "centralise the whole process, [would] make things work in the opposite direction. This is just not reasonable."

According to He Zehong, a scholar from Southwest University of Politics and Law in Sichuan province, the plan would require the Supreme People's Court to hire more staff. In fact, one of the major reasons that the death sentence power was decentralised in 1983 was a shortage of human resource in the face of a surging crime rate.

The proposal to amend sentencing procedures in capital cases had already been submitted in 2004. A source from the Supreme People's Court is quoted as saying that "if everything goes well, the court will resume its power of approving and reviewing death sentences next year."

Meantime the Beijing Higher People's Court yesterday issued an order for the execution of four people. Beijing residents Zhang Entai, 51, and Zhang Shuangli, 38, received the death penalty for murder and necrophilia; Li Honglin, 25, for stabbing his girlfriend to death; Wang Kai, 25, for beating his associate to death after they stole steel worth 7,300 yuan from a railway line in Beijing.

China accounts for 90 per cent of all executions in the world. In 2003, 5,000 death penalties were passed, but party leaders estimate that the real number could be twice as high.

In China the death penalty is imposed for 'serious' crimes which include corruption and non violent felonies.

Once arrested, alleged offenders are not given full and immediate counsel—that normally comes after police interrogation and even then is not always provided.

In this first phase, torture is often used to extract a 'confession' which can then be introduced in court as evidence in capital cases.

Unlike other jurisdictions, in China there is no presumption of innocence.

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