Fri, Aug 03, 2007 - Page 5 News List

China defends use of death penalty to punish corruption

AFP , BEIJING

China defended on Thursday its use of the death penalty to punish corrupt officials, just weeks after the former head of the food and drug administration was executed for graft.

"China has so far kept the death penalty system, and the death penalty is applicable to serious economic crimes," said Gan Yisheng (干以勝), spokesman of the Chinese Communist Party's discipline commission, one of the top graft-busting agencies.

"It proceeds from the national conditions and cultural background of China. It's nothing to be criticized," he said in Beijing.

Gan's remarks came a month after Zheng Xiaoyu (鄭筱萸), 62, was put to death for corrupt behavior during his time as head of China's food and drug watchdog.

"[Zheng's] punishment has been endorsed by the Chinese people and also recognized by the international community," Gan said.

China is criticized abroad for its frequent use of the death penalty, which can also be imposed for a range of non-violent crimes.

"Different countries have different circumstances and have different cultural backgrounds and views on the death penalty and they have different legal traditions. I think it is very natural," Gan said.

Rights groups say China kills more of its citizens than any other nation, with some academics putting the annual toll at 10,000.

London-based rights group Amnesty International describes the country's legal system as one "which ... does not guarantee a fair trial under international law."

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