The vice-president of the Supreme People’s Court says fewer people were sentenced to death in China last year than at any time in the last decade. And he says the number of death sentences has continued to fall this year, since the Supreme People’s Court took back the power of final approval in January:
"Among the death penalty cases the Supreme People’s Court reviewed from January to July, a relatively large proportion was not given approval," Jiang Xingchang, vice president of the top court, told Outlook Weekly magazine.
It’s not entirely clear what "a relatively large proportion" actually is, since Jiang Xingchang didn’t say. Nor did he say how many people were executed last year, or how many people were executed in the years before that. So I suppose we just have to take his word for it.
But that’s OK. The Supreme People’s Court is obviously saving the details as a surprise for the new National People’s Congress when it begins its five-year term in March next year. After all, the Supreme People’s Court will have to submit a report to the people’s representatives telling them what it’s been doing. The president of the court clearly wouldn’t dream of just saying: "We did very well this year. I’m not going to give you any evidence for that, but you can trust me because I’m important." That would be like a company telling its shareholders:
"Our profits are up."
"What are our profits?"
"We’re not telling you, but they’re higher than they were last year."
"What were our profits last year?"
"We’re not telling you that either. Just keep giving us your money."
Obviously the president of the Supreme People’s Court wouldn’t dare to use a line like that to the very people who have the power to reject his report. The NPC will undoubtedly want to know if their colleague Chen Zhonglin was right when he said in 2004:
"Every year China has nearly 10,000 cases of the death penalty that result in immediate execution. This is about five times more than all the other death penalty cases from other nations combined," said Chen Zhonglin, a National People’s Congress (NPC) delegate from Chongqing municipality.
Actually, since there are only about 500 executions outside of China each year, I make that 20 times the rest of the world put together. The NPC will surely want to know if Chen was wrong and there were only 5,000 executions - ten times the rest of the world combined. And they’ll definitely want to know if that’s now gone down to, say, 2,500 - only five times the rest of the world.
We can be absolutely sure that the NPC will be publicly told these things because we know that it is not a rubber stamp.