New amendments to the criminal law in China, which abolished the death penalty for nine crimes and criminalised behaviour such as spreading false rumours on the internet, will take effect from November 1.

China’s Ninth Amendment to the PRC Criminal Law was adopted on August 29. According to the National People’s Congress, the death penalty has been removed for crimes such as smuggling weapons, counterfeiting currency, raising funds by means of fraud, forcing another person to engage in prostitution; obstructing a police officer, and fabricating rumors to mislead others during wartime. Convicted offenders will now face a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

Under the section 291, offenders could be imprisoned up to seven years for disrupting social stability by posting false police notices or spreading rumours about natural disasters on the internet. The penalty will depend on the consequences of the rumours.

NPC meeting auditorium. Photo: Wikicommons.

The law was a further blow to internet freedom in China, which came last – behind both Syria and Iran – in a Freedom House survey on the topic on Wednesday. Wu Zijun, a Chinese lawyer, told Cable News that the law was amended to keep up with changing times and technological developments, given the speed information could spread in the modern world.

Another new amendment added is that lawyers could be detained for “disrupting court order” or “insulting judicial officers”, which some said could affect lawyers from actively putting forward a case in court. Section 307 was also amended so that that those who bring a civil case based on “a distorted version of the truth” could face three to seven years in prison.

Disruption of order in court. Photo: Cable news screenshot.

Those who cheat in exams could now face three to seven years in prison, after an amendment to section 284 of the Chinese Criminal Law Code. Professor Hong Daode, criminal law professor at China University of Political Science and Law, said that the regulations “purify” the examination environment and build a good social atmosphere. He also said that the passing of these laws criminalises all types of cheating behaviour, leaving no loopholes, and that the strict laws, if combined with strict execution, will be a great deterrent.

School bus drivers who are caught speeding or overloading will be now imprisoned and not just fined, whether or not the vehicle was not involved in any accidents. The amendment came as a response to serious traffic accidents involving school buses in recent years, Sina News reported. The new amendments also made it an aggravating factor to abuse a senior citizen, a minor, a sick person, or a person with disability.

Karen is a journalist and writer covering politics and legal affairs in Hong Kong for HKFP. She has also written features on human rights, public space, regional legal developments, social and grassroots activism, and arts & culture. She is a BA and LLB graduate from the University of Hong Kong.