A World Coalition delegation found the door closed on June 16 when they attempted to handover to the Chinese Liaison Office in Hong Kong a petition urging for changes in the death penalty system in China.
Stopped at the outside door of the building, it was refused the chance to be met by any official on the explanation that ‘this is a political issue’.
The petition, calling for the lift of state secrecy on the practice of the death penalty and a moratorium on executions, was signed by 256,457 persons from all around the world.
Earlier in the morning, the WCADP held a press conference in Hong Kong to present its demands and compare the death penalty situation in China with global trends in Asia and the rest of the world.
Death penalty remains a particular concern in China, where thousands of people continue to be sentenced to death and executed each year, often after hasty and unfair trial.
“They've destroyed my future”
“I just had one son, all my hopes rested on him. They’ve destroyed my future […] Without my son, my family and I can’t go on”, said the mother of an innocent who had been wrongfully sentenced to death and executed on the basis of confessions made under torture.
Mark Allison, China researcher for Amnesty International, reminded that important reforms were needed to improve the Chinese criminal justice system and preclude miscarriages of justice. However, he recognised the importance of a recent reform requesting the Supreme People’s Court review of death penalty sentences, which has led to a significant reduction in the number of executions, according to the Chinese authorities. He regretted that this statement could not be supported or assessed by any figure as the death penalty remains classified as a state secret.
“Polite and transparent dialogue”
“We ask for China to make transparency part of its death penalty”, said Speedy Rice, an American law professor talking on behalf of the World Coalition. “We hope that through a polite and transparent dialogue, China will restrict the number of crimes eligible for death, afford greater legal protection for the accused and, ultimately, respect its public statement at the United Nations Human Rights Council that China will one day end its use of the death penalty.”
Abolition is possible in China as it is in the rest of the world. Emily Lau, member of the Hong Kong Legislative Council, reminded that Hong Kong has abolished the death penalty in 1993 and that the crime rate has been decreasing in the past ten years.
“Changes in China would have a great impact on the rest of the world and especially in Asia” said Maiko Tagusari, a lawyer from Japan and member of the Anti Death Penalty Asia Network (ADPAN). She spoke after a two-day meeting of the ADPAN network clearly indicated that the momentum towards abolition is growing in the region.
The press conference had opened with a video message from Robert Badinter, French Senator, former Minister of Justice and former member of the Ethics Commission of the International Olympic Committee. He insisted that executions that would take place in China or elsewhere in the world during the Olympic Games would offend the integrity of human beings, which is the very principle of the Olympic spirit.