[JURIST] China [JURIST news archive] will increase the number of public trials for death penalty appeals during the second half of 2006, a legal scholar from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences [official website, in Chinese] said Monday. Liu Renwen estimated that China executes approximately 8,000 people per year, giving the country the highest number of executions in the world. The Supreme Court of China [official website, in Chinese] took back its authority to review [JURIST report] death penalty appeals last December after human rights groups criticized the country for arbitrary executions, and the decision is being protested by lower courts which claim they need the authority to control public security. Beijing, Shanghai, and the southern province of Hainan have already begun to hear appeals in open court.
The high court has set up three branch courts to hear the appeals, which is anticipated to reduce the number of carried out executions by 30 percent. Experts say, however, that the court does not have the staffing to review such a large number of death sentences. The Chinese National People's Congress [government backgrounder] begins its annual session on Sunday and is expected to discuss the death penalty issue, but Liu doubted that the legislature would be able to resolve whether the Chinese Supreme Court should handle all death penalty cases. Reuters has more.