By Susan Trevaskes (auth.)
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Extra info for The Death Penalty in Contemporary China
Expanding the use of sihuan rather than this default has saved thousands of people each year from execution. In the Harmonious Society era, the “kill fewer” approach shifted the question from which crime categories deserve swift and severe punishment to the more fundamental question of what constitutes the most serious crime, that is, prioritizing the interests of whom (what categories of criminals) to punish severely. Limiting the harshest punishment (immediate execution) to fewer categories of offenders also served to sharpen judicial understanding of what should be regarded as the most serious crime.
Chinese authorities chose to control serious crime through what was called the “Strike Hard” approach rather than to re-regulate the market with laws that could prove an impediment to market development. The wave of serious crime linked to the social and economic dislocation caused by marketization process caught China’s leaders unawares. They were also unprepared for the propensity of free market conditions to inspire and provide fertile soil for criminal activity. The growth in serious crime throughout the reform period and until very recently suggests that, in the early years of market reform, inexperience in market regulation and eagerness to maintain market growth allowed some forms of serious crime to flourish without an effective curb .
The vital common link between the political content of all three policies and the political nature of criminal law is made clear in Article 2 of the PRC’s first criminal code in 1979 and its amended version in 1997. This article articulates in no uncertain terms that the Criminal Law itself is tied inextricably to the development and protection of state interests. The first aim of the Criminal Law is to safeguard the state and to defend state power as identified in Article 2: The aim of the Criminal Law of the People’s Republic of China is to use criminal punishment to fight against all criminal acts in order to safeguard security of the State, to defend the State power of the people’s democratic dictatorship and the socialist system, to protect property owned by the State, and property collectively owned by the working people and property privately owned by citizens, to protect citizens’ rights of the person and their democratic and other rights, to maintain public and economic order, and to ensure the smooth progress of socialist construction.