China says that it has scaled down its use of capital punishment since 2012 and second trials of death penalty cases have all been conducted in open courts. The country has also put tighter checks on the death penalty, according to a government report on its 2012-2015 human rights action plan.

An oversight office to review death penalty cases was established in 2012 in an effort to increase checks on legal procedures related to the death penalty, according to the report, released Tuesday.

A criminal law amendment adopted last year cancelled the death penalties for nine crimes, reducing the number of crimes eligible for the death penalty from 55 to 46.

Nie Shubin’s mother. Photo: Baidu Images.

The nine crimes include smuggling weapons, ammunition, nuclear materials or counterfeit currency; counterfeiting currency; raising funds by means of fraud; arranging for or forcing another person to engage in prostitution; obstructing a police officer or a person on duty from performing his duties; and fabricating rumors to mislead others during wartime.

‘Top executioner’ 

The number of death penalties carried out in China is a state secret, but Amnesty International estimates that thousands were imposed in 2015. China remains the top executioner in the world.

Photo: Amnesty International.

“There are signs that the number of executions in China has decreased in recent years, but the secrecy around the death penalty makes this impossible to confirm for certain,” Amnesty said in a recent report.

The government also announced on the same day that it is formulating its human rights action plan for 2016-2020, China’s third such national plan.

The Chinese government’s report follows last week’s Supreme Court decision for a retrial of Nie Shubin, who was executed for the rape and murder of a woman in 1995.

Correction 16/6: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the Supreme Court’s decision was issued on Monday. In fact, the decision was issued last Monday, June 6th.

Catherine Lai

Catherine is a Canadian journalist and photographer who lived in Beijing for almost two years, working in TV and online media. Aside from Hong Kong and mainland affairs, she is also interested in urban spaces, art and feminism. She holds a BA in Literature and Art History from the University of British Columbia.