EXTERNAL (for general distribution) AI Index: ASA 17/16/95
EXTRA 31/95 Death Penalty 16 March 1995
PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC OF CHINA Chen Jianjun, aged 25, unemployed
On 10 March 1995, the Wuhan city's Intermediate People's Court in Hubei province
convened a special public sentencing session to "strike hard at robbers and
car thieves", and announced sentences against a number of offenders, according
to a report in the Wuhan Daily of 11 March.
Chen Jianjun, from Chengguan township in Huangpi county, was condemned to death
for the alleged theft of 14 motorcycles. In a different case, Ju Jianming
was sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve for allegedly leading a gang
which had stolen a three-wheeled motorcycle and had "repeatedly robbed cars"
which was said to have "seriously jeopardized social order". Several others
involved in the case were sentenced to prison terms of up to life imprisonment.
It is not known whether the two accused have appealed against their death
sentences. Under Chinese law, depending on the case, the defendants have either
three or 10 days after the passing of sentence to appeal to another court.
If no appeal is lodged, their sentences should be automatically referred for
review to the Hubei Province High People's Court. This court must then rule
on the appeal or review the case within one and a half months. This process
can be accelerated and review of death sentences can take place within only
a few days after the trial. Successful appeals are rare.
The death penalty is used extensively in China. For the first nine months of
1994, Amnesty International recorded 1486 death sentences and 1006 executions,
although it believes these figures to be well below the actual number of death
sentences and executions carried out. The increased use of the death penalty
in China since the late 1980s occurs in the context of continuing "anti-crime"
Amnesty International is concerned that death sentences in China are handed
out following trials which fall far short of international standards for
fairness. Defendants do not always have access to lawyers. In death penalty
cases, lawyers, when available, usually have no more than one or two days to
prepare a defence. Death sentences are often decided in advance of the trial
by "adjudication committees" whose decision is seldom challenged by the courts.
Chinese legal experts have in recent years criticized the practice of pre-trial
verdicts, but it is reported to be still widespread.
Amnesty International is also concerned that the use of the death penalty in
China appears to be discriminatory; it tends to apply disproportionately to
people of low social standing who have neither the social nor the political
status enabling others to defend themselves against the accusations.
Furthermore, cases have been reported in which death sentences were imposed
on the basis of confessions extracted through coercion or torture.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send telegrams and airmail letters either in English
or Mandarin Chinese or in your own language:
- expressing opposition to the death penalty in all cases as the ultimate form
of cruel and inhuman punishment and as a violation of the right to life as