Balance leniency with justice

Updated: 2014-10-28 07:19

(China Daily)

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The proposed amendments to the criminal law, the 9th set to be submitted for legislative review, will indeed help better protect citizens' rights. But they will almost certainly create confusion if they are passed as they are, and without proper elaboration.

Under the current Criminal Law, people who have "bought" abducted women or children could be exempted from punishment if they haven't prevented the women from returning to their original residence, and haven't mistreated the children or prevented them from being rescued. The proposed amendment criminalizes all such acts of "purchase".

For the first time in criminal legislation, the proposed amendment to Article 18 prescribes punishment for legal custodians who severely mistreat minors or senior citizens, or those with ailments or disabilities under their care.

The proposed amendment to Article 237, now tailored specifically to deal with sex crimes against women and children, will for the first time extend the provision to cover men. This change shouldn't have difficulty in being approved, because it is an overdue legislative response to a problem of increasing public concern and has to do with real gender equality in terms of legal protection.

For those supporting the abolition of death penalty, nothing could be more inspiring than the proposed suspension of capital punishment for nine types of crime. Once approved, the number of crimes that invite the death penalty will drop to 46. This is another major step forward after exemptions of death penalty to 13 types of crime in 2011.

For ordinary citizens, however, worries about negative consequences of the amendments are natural and legitimate. The authorities keep assuring the public that suspending the death penalty for the 13 crimes in 2011 hasn't led to an increase in such crimes. Instead, some serious crimes have even dropped in numbers. But, as the authorities have been reiterating, those were non-violent (economic) crimes that didn't pose a physical threat to people in the first place.

The new ones, however, include smuggling of weapons, munitions and nuclear materials, and forcing others into prostitution. Questions will be raised on the chances of such crimes increasing in numbers once the deterrence of capital punishment is gone.

Yet nothing could be more controversial than the leniency toward corruption cases. Though this part of the amendment is reportedly meant to upgrade punishment and boost the fight against corruption, writing off the public money embezzled or the bribes taken by officials can hardly be welcome.

Existing stipulations can be revised. Removing them altogether will take plenty of explaining.

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