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Crimes are acts that pose a danger to the sovereignty, security, and integrity of the state. Crimes have the effect of dividing countries and undermining the social as well as economic stability of a country. In China, there are over a hundred types of crimes ranging from infringement of rights to the destruction of property, upsetting political order, and murder.
The laws of China are enacted to punish people who commit crimes and are applicable to every individual within the territorial boundaries of the Republic. Chinese law is always based on the constitution of the supreme law. Any individual within the land, waters, and skies of China is subject to this law without prejudice or favor.
The Chinese criminal law is used to punish criminals so that the security of the state is safeguarded. Criminal punishments take various forms. One is liable to take criminal responsibility when they attain the age of sixteen. However, minors below this age are liable to take criminal responsibility if they commit high-level crimes that upset the social order such as murder. China has been widely criticized by numerous human rights advocates for some of its criminal punishments that have been deemed inhuman.
Three points should be taken into account when discussing Chinese criminal punishments.
- The first factor being Buddhist believes whose doctrines state that there is reincarnation after death. This belief made people view the death punishment extremely lightly.
- Second, the deplorable living conditions in many emperors made people yearn to go to the better next life.
- Third, there was remarkably little value placed on human life because of the large population of the country.
These three factors affected punishments in traditional Chinese society.
Cultural Context of Punishments in China
During the dynastic era in China, there were five conventional punishments one of them being capital punishment. Legalists were radical supporters of capital punishment in China while Confucians were vehemently opposed to it in favor of rehabilitation. Communist philosophy supported death penalties and that was viewed by Karl Marx, and his counterpart Friedrich Engels, as feudal and a sign of oppression by capitalists.
Chinese Communist Party glorified the death penalty, but they suggested that its use must be limited. Non-communist leaders supported punishment through the death penalty as well. Generally, capital punishment was supported by a large population of Chinese citizens especially as a way of punishing criminals who engage in violent crimes. This form of punishment had the overwhelming support of 95% as found by a survey conducted by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in 1995. However, with the changing views in Chinese society, the support of the death penalty form of punishment has drastically declined to below 60%.
Categories of Punishments
The forms of punishment issued in China have drastically changed since ancient times. Punishments are executed to discourage the prevalence of negative behavior and reinforce positive behavior among citizens. It is also imposed to help wrongdoers to reform. The ancient Chinese laws provided forms of punishment that are totally different from modern Chinese law punishments. In traditional Chinese society, less serious crimes were punished by beating while serious crimes were punished by banishment and decapitation.
Under modern Chinese law, punishments are categorized into two main groups. These are principal punishments and supplementary punishments. Punishments are given after the successful dispensation of the legal judicial system. An individual suspected of committing a crime should be made aware of the charges he is liable for and be charged freely and fairly according to the judicial hearing. Some forms of principal punishments include:
Public surveillance means that a criminal is subjected to scrutiny by the society within which the criminal lives. A criminal is liable to surveillance for three months and not exceeding two years. The responsibility for overseeing the efficient execution of public surveillance is the public security organ. The organ ensures that criminals subjected to this form of punishment adhere to it as expected by law. When the sentenced criminals participate in labor they should be paid as other people. There are certain conditions that a criminal under public surveillance should observe and these conditions include:
- Adhere to laws, administrative rules as well as regulations. He should also freely accept supervision from the officer assigned to him.
- Forfeit his freedoms to speech, assembly, press, association, and procession. He can only exercise these freedoms after getting approval from the organ overseeing public surveillance.
- Report the activities he undertakes as expected by the organ mandated to execute surveillance.
- Observe the guidelines guiding the receipt of visitors as expected by the surveillance organ. This is done to regulate the people that the convicted criminal comes in contact with to avoid the influence of people with negative energy.
- The criminal should seek approval if he intends to depart from his residence.
The organ tasked with overseeing surveillance is obliged to announce the expiration of it once the term has been fully served. Public surveillance is an effective way to motivate criminals to mend their ways. Criminals face no level of humiliation whosoever and this makes them transform into law-abiding citizens.
Criminal detention means that the criminal is confined or secluded from other members of society for a particular period. This is done so that the criminal can be rehabilitated to change his ways and be a useful member of society. A criminal serves detention for a period, not below a month and not exceeding six months, and is given the privilege to go home for a day or two each month. Security organs are responsible for undertaking criminal detention. Appropriate pay is given if the detainee engages in labor.
According to Chinese law, detention is counted from the judgment date. The Chinese security organ is firm in ensuring that criminal reforms reduce the level of crime in the country. For detention to work effectively, the security organ overseeing it must develop programs that encourage the prosecuted criminals to change their ways. They must be educated on the importance of being law-abiding citizens and show the dangers posed by criminal activities.
This type of principal punishment has attracted worldwide concern and has seen the Chinese government be criticized on the ground of inhuman practices. Human rights practitioners believe that every individual has a right to life which is highly undermined by Chinese criminal law.
In China, death penalties apply to individuals who commit extremely serious crimes. The Chinese Supreme People's course is the only court that has the mandate to give death sentences. Death penalties are only imposed on lawbreakers who had attained 18 years when the crime happened.
The penalty cannot be executed to a woman who is pregnant during the trial. Death punishment may be suspended if it is proved that execution is unnecessary. During the two years, the punishment has suspended the criminal must not commit any intentional crimes. If an individual sentenced to the death penalty shows some level of reform during the period of suspension, he could be subjected to a fixed term of imprisonment which is between 15 and not exceeding 20 years.
The death penalty as viewed by many societies is totally unacceptable. Many people believe that killing criminals is not an effective way of eradicating criminal activities in society. The Chinese government needs to understand that the best way to eradicate crime is by educating criminals on why they need to abide by the law. Killing them is not a solution rather it is heightening concern about crime.
Fixed Term Imprisonment and Life Imprisonment
Fixed-term is prison punishments that are not subject to change regardless of criminal reforms. A fixed-term range, not below six months and not exceeding 15 years. This is documented under article 50 of the Chinese law. Education and work are some of the ways used to ensure criminals change their ways. The days an individual serves are counted beginning from the day judgment is delivered. Life imprisonment means that a criminal shall serve his sentence for his entire life which means the criminal dies as they serve their sentence.
Life imprisonment is imposed on individuals who are charged with serious crimes that cause an imbalance in societal values and morals. Depending on the programs used by security officials overseeing fixed and life imprisonment this form of punishment could produce positive or negative results. Prisoners are confined in prison facilities to help them correct their actions or seclude them from society due to the danger they pose to societal members.
These are punishments that are imposed on criminals alongside principal punishments. An individual could be sentenced to serve the two types of punishment. However, it is necessary to note that, in China, supplementary punishments could be imposed independently. Some examples of supplementary punishments include the following.
Some crimes attract monetary punishments. The choice imposed is determined by the crime that is committed. A charge could either be paid in installments or a lump sum, but this is by the judgment's specifications. A time limit is provided to have the charge paid according to Chinese law. If a criminal fails to pay the fine within the stipulated time, he is compelled to pay it. In the event that a criminal is unable to pay the fine, the court provides that the person be given adequate time to acquire property to execute the fine.
However, if the court sufficiently proves that the individual lacks the ability to raise the quality imposed they reduce the outstanding given the circumstances. Under Chinese law, fines are imposed on minor crimes. The judicial system must assess the implications posed by granting criminals fines and letting them live among other people. Some criminals need to be confined in correctional facilities to enable them to reform before they can coexist peacefully in the community. Granting fines to dangerous criminals places a threat to the community.
Withdrawing Political Rights
Chinese people are entitled to several rights that could be deprived if an individual engages in criminal activities. These rights are documented under article 54 in the constitution. The rights that are subject to deprivation include:
- The right to participate in elections that are either voting or stand to be elected is suspended. Every law-abiding citizen in the Republic of China enjoys this right, but lawbreakers and criminals are exempted from it.
- Freedoms to speech, assembly, association, press, procession, and demonstration are also deprived of criminals. Law-abiding citizens in the Republic of China enjoy all the above rights, but those who break the law are not subject to these rights.
- Criminals can under no circumstance hold any position in public offices.
- Charged criminals in a court of law are not eligible to lead or run a state-owned enterprise.
These rights are suspended for a period not less than a year and must not exceed five years as constituted under article 57 of the Chinese constitution. Criminals serving public surveillance have their political rights deprived that is supplementary to other punishments imposed on criminals. The two punishments are executed simultaneously. Criminals serving death and life imprisonment have their political rights deprived for as long as they live.
Article 58 of the Chinese laws states that the withdrawal of these rights shall be implemented from the date when the criminal is sent to prison. The rights withdrawal is executed during the period the criminal is serving principal punishment. These criminals are subject to abide by the law of the land as constituted in the Chinese constitution. I support the withdrawal of political rights from criminals because very often they do not have the best interest of the society at heart.
This form of punishment is provided under article 59 of the Chinese law. Confiscation means that property legally possessed by a criminal is taken away either partially or completely. When the property is being confiscated, he must be left with sufficient funds to cater to his family's daily expenses. Property owned by family members of the criminal cannot be confiscated. At times, the property is used to repay loans that the criminal owes other people. When the property is confiscated from criminals, they lack the means to finance their criminal activities which encourages them to stop engaging in criminal activities.
Every society has its way of doing the thing which could be acceptable by other societies across the world or criticized. China being the world's most populated country in the world has been criticized especially for its execution of death penalties. Many societies in the world believe that there are better ways of punishing criminals rather than depriving them of their right to life. Criminals in China undergo torture to compel them to confess their crimes.
It is wrong to force people to confess their crimes using forceful means at times individuals confess to crimes simply because of the pain they are put through and very often they are innocent of what they are accused of. Legal proceedings in the Republic of China fail to conform to internationally accepted standards. This affects the transparency and impartiality of the ruling made and some innocent people are convicted and punished for crimes they did not commit.
The Chinese government has been asked by the international community to make public statistics owing to the death penalty and the government has refused to cooperate. Another issue of concern is the use of body organs belonging to criminals to carry out commercial transplants. The Chinese law provides that for organs to be transplanted the criminal must issue written approval to be a donor.
Hospitals go ahead and collect organs from criminals without following the set legislation. Over half of the organs transplanted in China are from criminals. However, the Chinese government is attempting to reform capital punishment by ensuring that death penalties are imposed on violent crimes only.
Punishments in the Republic of China are imposed to discourage criminals from participating in activities that upset the order in the society. Criminal activities discourage economic growth and threaten the integrity of the state. Punishment is a means of fighting crime and punishments are executed according to Chinese law. Every criminal activity attracts a particular form of punishment. It is the mandate of the security organ to ensure that criminals are punished accordingly for the crimes they participate in. These officers must also ensure that correctional programs are executed properly, and that desired results are achieved. Punishments must be humane and uphold the integrity of human life.
In China punishments are either principal or supplementary or the law outlines guidelines for which each punishment is executed. They are executed to commensurate the crime that the individual has committed. All punishments documented in the law of China are appropriate except for the death penalty that has raised concern by human rights practitioners across the world. The Chinese government has been accused of undermining the integrity of human life.
The government is, however, slowly trying to amend its legal system owing to pressure from other nations. China may be widely criticized because its weaknesses have been exposed to the entire world other countries subject prisoners to work with extremely meager pay. In conclusion, the Chinese government has the responsibility to safeguard the integrity and safety of its citizens using measures that they perceive appropriate depending on the characteristics of the society. China is a sovereign state, and it shall not be compelled by pressure from other countries to change its way of doing things, however, these practices must be in line with internationally accepted principles.