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Special> Fourth Plenary Session of 18th CPC Central Committee> News
UPDATED: October 28, 2014
China Mulls Laws on Death Penalty, Counterespionage, Anti-Terrorism

China's top legislature started its bimonthly meeting on Monday, with lawmakers considering draft laws and amendments regarding death penalty, counterespionage and anti-terrorism.

The removal of death penalty as punishment for nine crimes, including smuggling weapons and nuclear materials was among the heatedly discussed topics.

A draft amendment to Criminal Law was submitted to the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) for a first reading during the session, which runs from Monday to Saturday.

According to the draft amendment, the nine crimes include smuggling weapons, ammunition, nuclear materials or counterfeit currency; counterfeiting currency; raising funds by means of fraud; arranging for or forcing another person to engage in prostitution; obstructing a commander or a person on duty from performing his duties; and fabricating rumors to mislead others during wartime.

After removing the death penalty for these crimes, those convicted will face a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, according to the draft.

The draft amendment is another move by China to limit the use of the death penalty following a decision at a key meeting last year to gradually reduce the number of crimes subject to death penalty, said Li Shishi, director of the Legislative Affairs Commission of the NPC Standing Committee.

If the proposal is adopted, it will be the second time the People's Republic of China has reduced the number of crimes punishable by death since Criminal Law took effect in 1979.

In 2011, the NPC Standing Committee dropped the death penalty for 13 economic-related non-violent crimes.

The legislature also started the second reading of a draft Counterespionage Law aimed at more comprehensive state security.

Formerly known as the National Security Law, the draft law is expected to include new rules that have proven effective in practice but have not yet been written into the current law, according to the Law Committee of the National People's Congress.

According to the draft, "Counterespionage work should proceed according to law, respect and ensure human rights, and guarantee the legal interests of citizens and organizations."

Information and material obtained for counterespionage work should only be limited in the field, and confidentiality should be ensured regarding state and commercial secrets and personal privacy, the draft says.

It also bans illegally possessing special espionage instruments. The stipulation was added after lawmakers suggested that electronic devices like smart phones can also be used in espionage.

The bill also specifies espionage's definition: foreign organizations and individuals who conduct espionage activities or who instigate and sponsor others in conducting them will be punished, as will domestic organizations and individuals who spy on the country for foreign organizations and individuals.

It grants national security agencies the authority to ask an organization or individual to stop or change activities considered harmful to national security. If they refuse or fail to do so, the agencies will be entitled to seal or seize related properties.

Once the Counterespionage Law takes effect, the National Security Law will cease.

China is also planning to set up an anti-terrorism intelligence gathering center to coordinate and streamline intelligence gathering in the field.

The draft counter-terrorism law aims to improve intelligence gathering and the sharing of information across government bodies and among military, armed police and militia, and enhance international cooperation, said Lang Sheng, deputy head of the Legislative Affairs Commission of the NPC Standing Committee.

Explaining the draft to lawmakers, Lang said China is facing a serious and complex situation with terrorism, as it sees more influence from "international factors."

The draft stipulates measures on Internet security management, the examination of transport, dangerous materials, terrorism financing prevention and border controls.

"Due to a lack of systematic laws in the field, the country's antiterrorism work is incomplete, with measures not forceful," Lang said, adding counter-terrorism provisions are scattered in various NPC Standing Committee decisions, Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure Law and Emergency Response Law.

Chinese lawmakers also plan to designate Dec. 4 as the national Constitution Day amid efforts to advance the rule of law.

Nationwide activities to promote the Constitution will be held on the date, according to the draft bill. China's top legislature adopted the Constitution on Dec. 4, 1982 based on a previous version enacted in 1954.

During the bimonthly session, lawmakers will also deliberate on a draft amendment to the Administrative Procedure Law, aiming to expand the people's rights to sue the government if authorities fail to fulfill contracts signed with citizens over land issues.

Heads of the charged administrations or officials involved in the cases should be present at court for trial. Those who refuse to appear without legitimate reasons or leave the court during the trial without approval may face additional punishment, according to the draft amendment submitted for a third reading.

Currently most defendants ask their lawyers or other staff to represent them in court.

Also to be deliberated are various reports covering issues such as regulating judicial acts in the court and procuratorate systems, enforcement of Law on the Prevention and Control of Atmospheric Pollution, the qualifications of some NPC deputies as well as some appointments and dismissals.

(Xinhua News Agency October 27, 2014)

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