INTERNATIONAL: New Report on China's Changing Attitudes Toward the Death Penalty

Roger Hood (pictured), Professor Emeritus of Criminology at the University of Oxford, has published a report on official attitudes towards capital punishment in China. Abolition of the Death Penalty: China in World Perspective outlines the changes over the past decade on this issue within Chinese academic and judicial communities. Hood observed that one of the strongest justifications for the death penalty in China is “the belief that retribution based on the notion of ‘a life for a life’ was deeply embedded in Chinese culture; that ignoring this support might cause social instability; and that China [is] not yet sufficiently economically developed that it could do away with an effective criminal sanction.” Nevertheless, Hood points out that despite secrecy around the country’s death penalty, “no one can doubt that a movement towards restriction and eventual abolition has got under way.” He attributes the shift in attitudes on the death penalty to the emerging international narrative that suggests capital punishment should be treated not as “a weapon of national criminal justice policy,” but as “a fundamental violation of universal human rights: not only the right to life but the right to be free from excessive, repressive and tortuous punishments - including the risk that an innocent or undeserving person may be executed.”

Hood concludes that “the last few years have witnessed a distinct change in the discourse, evidenced by the willingness of the Chinese authorities to discuss the death penalty in human rights seminars and dialogues with European countries, the gradual opening up of the subject to research, and the attempt to guard against wrongful conviction and control the incidence of executions through review of all death penalty verdicts by the Supreme People’s Court.” Read full report.

(R. Hood, “Abolition of the Death Penalty: China in World Perspective,” City University of Hong Kong Law Review, 2009). See International. Read more Studies on the death penalty.