[JURIST] Xiao Yang, president of the Supreme People's Court [official website] in China, has encouraged Chinese courts to refrain from passing death sentences [JURIST news archive], telling judges to always lean toward life when possible [press release, in Chinese]. Xiao's comments, reported in the state media Thursday, follow recent legislation [JURIST report] passed by the National People's Congress [official website] to amend the Organic Law on the People's Courts [text] so that only the Supreme People's Court has the authority to approve the death penalty. Xiao's remarks on limiting death sentences came partly in an effort to cut the number of cases that will come before China's top court for review.
Under the revision approved last month, which will take effect January 1, 2007, all cases where the death penalty has been handed down must be approved by the country's top court, except judgments issued directly by the Supreme People's Court. Appeals of guilty verdicts will still be considered through the standard appellate process. Chinese academics have estimated that China executes up to 10,000 people a year. Xiao, however, rejected abolishing the death penalty, saying that China still needs the death penalty to ensure safety." AFP has more. Xinhua has local coverage.