Research on Diversity and Conformity of Chinese Death Penalty Culture
Depending on one's point of view, the culture contained within the death penalty in China is both conformity and diversity. Unity within the Chinese death penalty definition means that this form of punishment has existed since time immemorial and has only one main aim: A life for a life. It is not only to serve as a form of punishment, but also as a deterrent to others. To use an idiom: "kill the chicken to warn the monkeys". That is the belief of mainstream Chinese culture.
On the other hand, diversity denotes the reality of the situation - that certain ethnic groups and people living in certain geographical regions in China are not concerned with the use of the death penalty in punishment nor with ethnical issues surrounding its use and calls for its abolition. Support for such a contention comes in the compensation within Chinese customary laws for lives taken as well as the calls for its abolition in the Hong Kong SAR.
A certain culture's perception of events is an expression of its psychology and this is what is behind the reason why China has retained the death penalty for certain crimes. However, it is interesting to note that this culture has been incorporated into the world legal culture as China moves towards being an economic world player.
Rationally, China, in acquiring global recognition as a major power today, should and would like to abolish the death penalty but in practice, this would be difficult in the short term. Thus, China has adopted positive measures to move towards that goal and by so doing, can she move towards achieving that aim.
1.Limit the application of the death penalty to certain crimes and,
2.Theoretically open the possibilities for the abolition of the death penalty by recognizing the right to life under many international conventions. The right to life argument finds support in the fact that it is an inherent right - not dependent on the State to grant it. Thus, by analogy, a State has no right to take it away unless there are exceptions where there is threat to the national security of a State or in an armed conflict. Only then can a State impose the death penalty to pre-empt the fundamental right to life.
Professor of Law, Institute of Law, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS)
A Chinese idiom, the real meaning is to punish someone to warn the others.
http://english.cri.com.cn/english/2002/May/60328.htm Last visit 28 November 2002