Sat, Dec 22, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Chinese judges defend death penalty, ‘social credit’ system amid criticism

Reuters, BEIJING

Top judges from the Chinese Supreme People’s Court have made a rare defense of the death penalty, with one saying that “a life for a life” is ingrained among the people, and backed “social credit” blacklists as necessary to make people repay their debts.

Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) has urged widespread reforms to the legal system, pledging to tackle miscarriages of justice and to strengthen the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party over the courts.

However, rights groups have said that the reforms fail to ensure fair trials, guard against rights abuses or restrict use of the death penalty.

Amnesty International on Tuesday said that China is failing to restrict the use of the death penalty to the most serious crimes only, in line with international norms.

Despite efforts to reduce executions, China could not abolish the system, which would risk angering a public that overwhelmingly supports its use, Judge Li Xiao (李曉) told reporters late on Thursday during a promotional visit to the court.

“For thousands of years, the idea of ‘a life for a life’ has been deeply ingrained among ordinary folk... If we released the figure, then ordinary folk would say too few were killed,” she said.

The court is responsible for the review and approval of all death sentences before they are carried out.

Beijing considers the number of people executed in China each year to be a state secret. International human rights organizations have estimated the figure at about 2,000.

Judges also defended China’s nascent social credit system, saying that restrictions on luxury purchases, such as flights or high-speed train tickets, are a good way to get people to fulfill their court-mandated debt repayments.

China’s lack of a system for dealing with individual bankruptcy, as there is in the US, means that such restrictions are necessary, Judge Liu Guixiang (劉貴祥) told reporters.

“If I am bankrupt and say that I cannot repay my debts, then I enjoy a luxurious, extravagant life day to day — I reckon you would be put in jail for that in the West,” Liu said.

The court’s blacklists for individuals who fail to carry out court-mandated tasks, such as repaying debts, are a part of a plan to build a “social credit” system to punish citizens more effectively for illegal behavior and encourage actions deemed socially beneficial.

The system is being tried out in a handful of cities and punishments are largely linked to industry-specific blacklists, but some observers have expressed concerns that it might be abused to compel people or companies to toe the party line.

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