In 2006, the UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment identified several problems with capital punishment in China, and recommended that the scope of the death penalty be reduced, particularly by abolishing the death penalty for economic and non-violent crimes. In 2008, when the Committee Against Torture issued its concluding observations regarding China’s compliance with the Torture Convention, China had not fully addressed those problems. The Committee requested that China disaggregate sentencing data so that it is possible to determine the actual number of executions in China. The Committee also requested that China cease the practice of shackling capital convicts, observing that the practice amounts to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and could be considered torture. The Committee urged China to continue to address the use of torture in interrogations and the execution of innocent, improperly convicted persons. Finally, the Committee expressed concern over the practice of using executed capital convicts as organ donors without their prior free and informed consent. At the time of our research, no information regarding China’s reply was available.

The Human Rights Council, in its 2009 Universal Periodic Review of human rights in China, recommended that China reduce the number of crimes carrying the death penalty. A number of delegates urged China to rectify the fact that it is neither transparent in its processes of justice nor proportionate in its use of the death penalty, and these delegates ultimately urged China to abolish the death penalty. China reserved comment until the eleventh session, when the government rejected the recommendation to regularly publish figures on the death penalty, reduce the scope of the death penalty, abolish capital punishment, and ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

During the 2013 Universal Periodic Review, the Human Rights Council recommended more transparency regarding the use of the death penalty, consideration of the moratorium on the death penalty and eventually the abolition of capital punishment, further reduction of the crimes punishable by death, and stricter procedures in death penalty cases. Delegates also welcomed recent death penalty reforms and the reduction in the scope of the application of capital punishment. China rejected all recommendations, but accepted the recommendation to continue to apply and adopt stricter standards on deciding on death penalty cases and to observe national legal safeguards surrounding the application of capital punishment as a tool of criminal justice.


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