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. China says death penalty system improved

The Supreme People's Court (SPC) building.
by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) March 10, 2008
Use of the death penalty has been checked in China since the top court began reviewing capital cases, the chief justice said Monday, but he withheld data on executions, which remain a state secret.

State-run Xinhua news agency quoted Xiao Yang, president of the Supreme People's Court (SPC), as saying "very few" death sentences had been handed down.

"The SPC has been working to ensure that capital punishment only applies to the very few number of felons who committed extremely serious, atrocious crimes that lead to grave social consequences," Xiao said in his annual report to the National People's Congress, according to Xinhua.

China does not reveal figures on executions but international rights group Amnesty International has said previously that more people are executed in China each year than in the rest of the world combined.

On Saturday, the Beijing Morning Post quoted senior SPC judge Huang Ermei as saying the court rejected 15 percent of all death sentences meted out by lower courts in 2007.

The reversals came after the SPC, the highest court in the land, took back the power to review all such cases in January 2007.

Huang cited a lack of evidence, miscarriages of justice and illegal court procedures as causing the reversed verdicts, but provided no other details.

Amnesty International has said at least 1,010 people were executed in China in 2006, according to publicly reported executions, out of a global total of 1,591.

But it said as many as 8,000 people may have been executed in China that year.

Rozi Ismail, president of the higher people's court of the northwestern Xinjiang region, was quoted as telling Xinhua that immediate executions after sentences in the region last year were half the 2006 totals.

No other figures were given.

China maintains the death penalty is needed as a strong deterrent against burgeoning crime.

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China to stick with one-child policy
Beijing (AFP) March 10, 2008
China will keep its controversial one-child policy unchanged for at least 10 years, the country's family planning chief was quoted as saying Monday, amid a government debate over easing the controls.

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