China, which carries out more executions than any country — Iran comes in a semi-close second — is pledging to reduce the number of people killed by the state. While far from abolishing the death penalty, the government is narrowing the definition of execution-worthy crime.

The New York Times:

In a series of interviews, the vice president of the Supreme People’s Court said that China was not ready to abolish capital punishment but that the penalty should be reserved for a small number of serious crimes, particularly those that threaten social stability.

More than 60 crimes can draw the death penalty in China, including tax evasion, embezzlement and drug trafficking, but the government does not release figures on the number of executions, many of which take place immediately after trials that legal experts say are unfair and lack transparency.

“Judicial departments should use the least number of death sentences as possible, and death penalties should not be given to those having a reason for not being executed,” Zhang Jun, the court’s vice president, was quoted as saying in the newspaper China Daily.

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