An amendment to Chinese law abolishing the death penalty [JURIST news archive] for 13 crimes passed in February [JURIST report] by the standing committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) [official website] went into effect on Sunday. The list of crimes for which the death penalty was abolished include non-violent and economic crimes [China Daily report] such as tax fraud; financial fraud; smuggling of precious metals, cultural relics and rare animals; teaching of crime-committing methods and robbing ancient cultural ruins. Another law that went into effect Sunday adds harsher penalties, including possibility of the death penalty, for producers of tainted food. Other changes to Chinese law taking effect Sunday included an indoor smoking ban [Xinhua report] in public places and increased penalties for drunk driving.
The amendment was originally proposed [JURIST report] in August, and Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] has criticized the measure as legal housekeeping because the crimes are rarely punished by execution [BBC report]. AI estimates that China executes thousands of people every year—more than the rest of the world combined—but the actual figure is a closely guarded state secret. Last February, the Supreme People's Court of China [official website, in Chinese] issued new guidelines for limiting capital punishment [JURIST report] in Chinese courts to "extremely serious" crimes.