Beijing is hosting the Olympic Games this year. The Olympic charter, which binds organisers and participants in the Games, asserts in particular the need to promote “a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity”.
The death penalty, which is widely used in China, is incompatible with these principles as it violates the right to life, universally recognised as a fundamental human right.
The World Coalition has therefore decided to raise awareness about the death penalty in China in the lead up to the 2008 Olympics through a petition, an open letter to the National People’s Assembly and a press conference.
Every year, China passes the most sentences and executions in the world, including for non-violent crimes. According to US-based organisation Dui Hua’s estiamtes, 7,500 to 8,000 executions took place there in 2006. Recent reforms have moved towards limiting the use of capital punishment, particularly by obliging the Supreme Court to review all death sentences. Its President asserts that “the death penalty should be used more prudently”.
Indeed, many death sentences are linked to the extraction of confessions through torture, and legal errors. Chinese public opinion, which is said to be in favour of the death penalty, was disturbed when the media revealed this state of affairs. Would the Chinese people change their minds if they knew the truth about the death penalty figures in their country, which are currently a secret?
A universal trend
The World Coalition would like to believe that the reforms to which the Chinese Government is pledged are not just a pre-Olympics PR operation. A country like China, which steadfastly likes to think that it is on the road to modernity and says that it is committed to the rule of law, is duty-bound to apply these commitments throughout the country.
Will China, which has an increasing presence on the international stage, decide to make these reforms the first step towards abolition of the death penalty, a universal trend which today has been adopted by 134 countries?
This is exemplified by the resolution calling for a moratorium on the death penalty adopted by the UN General Assembly in December 2007.
In the first instance, the World Coalition calls on the Chinese authorities to pledge to transparently communicate the country’s death penalty figures. It also urges China to introduce a moratorium on executions to open the way for a calm debate on the abolition of capital punishment.
The example of Hong Kong, which abolished the death penalty in 1993 and where no executions have been performed since 1966, proves that abolition of the death penalty in China is possible. It has one of the lowest levels of criminality in the world.
Mobilisation up until the Olympics
You can already sign the petition available on this website or download a printable version and circulate it widely. An information leaflet is also available for download.
At the end of February, the World Coalition will present its arguments in an open letter to the chairman of the National People’s Assembly just before it opens its congress in early March. The letter will call on him to take concrete action in favour of the abolition of capital punishment in China.
A few weeks before the Games, teh World Coalition will meet on Chinese soil, in Hong Kong, to hand in the petition and give a press conference detailing the reasons why the death penalty should be abolished immediately by a nation that is eager to welcome the entire world.