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Is Life Imprisonment without Parole or Commutation an Effective Anti-Corruption Measure for China?

New legislation adopting a tough criminal stance on the crimes of corruption and bribery responds to the need for strengthening Chinese anti-corruption work. The ninth amendment to the Chinese Criminal Law Code, which adds life imprisonment without parole or commutation, has received broad support from all sectors of society. The aim of the amendment, as stated by the legislature, is to safeguard judicial fairness and prevent criminals convicted of the most serious corruption offences from having their prison sentences shortened through commutation. This stated legislative aim is not acceptable. Whether from the perspective of deterrence or alternative measures to the death penalty, the approach of adding life imprisonment without parole or commutation in order to punish the corrupt is not ideal.

This article argues that, given the particular nature of crimes of corruption and given the disadvantages of life imprisonment without parole or commutation, restraint in the use of the death penalty does not mean that life imprisonment has to be used as an alternative measure. Moreover, the death penalty with a two-year reprieve is sufficient for realising retribution and prevention as aims of punishment.

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