President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said his government’s policy is to retain the death penalty, but to exercise prudence over its use, as it has been doing in recent years.
Ma made the remarks on Sunday at a national youth policy forum during a discussion with participants about their views on capital punishment.
Among the 85 participants at the annual forum organized by the Ministry of Education, 26 said they supported abolition of the death penalty, while 46 said they did not.
One of the participants who expressed support for capital punishment said that people who take others’ lives should be punished.
Another participant said he could not support the idea of abolishing the death penalty because a member of his family had been murdered.
The perpetrator received a prison sentence of 14 years, which was later commuted to eight years, he said.
The killer was eventually released from prison, but the victim’s family continues to suffer the pain, said the young participant, who did not give his name.
Expressing a contrasting point of view, a participant said each life is unique, and one should not seek revenge after being hurt, but choose the path of forgiveness.
“A life for a life is too extreme,” the young person said.
In response, Ma said that during his tenure as minister of justice from 1993 to 1996, more than 50 death-row prisoners were executed, but now there are only five or six executions per year.
The government does not plan to abolish the death penalty, but would exercise caution over its use, Ma said.
The Ministry of Justice has been reviewing the policy and is disinclined to carry out executions.
Minister of Justice Luo Ying-shay (羅瑩雪), one of the many Cabinet members who attended the forum, said that while the death penalty is a thorny issue, it can be easily decided by legal means in a democratic country.
While pacifists might want to see the death penalty done away with, this can only be achieved by a majority decision, she said.
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