EXTERNAL AI Index: ASA 17/55/96
EXTRA 56/96 Death Penalty 23 April 1996
PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC OF CHINAWu Yidong
On 18 April 1996 a court in China's northeastern Jilin province reportedly
sentenced four people to death for tax fraud.
The four - Wu Yidong, Wu Zhe, Wei Yongling and Wang Kaiyou - were convicted
of selling illegally purchased tax receipts in the southern province of
Guangzhou, from which they allegedly made more than 520,000 yuan (US $62,650).
It was reported that two other members of the same group were sentenced to
Under Chinese law, the defendants have between three and 10 days after the
passing of sentence to appeal to another court. It is not known exactly how
many of the four will appeal. If no appeal is lodged, their sentences will
be automatically referred for review to Jilin 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
The death penalty is used extensively in China. In 1995 Amnesty International
recorded over 3110 reported death sentences and 2189 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 has occurred in the context of continuing "anti-crime"
Amnesty International is concerned that death sentences in China are meted
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.
The range of crimes carrying the death penalty increased last year and two
further non-violent economic crimes of "financial irregularities" and VAT fraud
were added to the list of crimes punishable by death.
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