Prof. Dr. Renwen Liu, Director of the Criminal Law Department of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, held a fascinating specialist lecture at the Finnish China Law Center on February 15. The presentation covered many current issues in criminal law from the Chinese perspective, including developments in death penalty regulations, food security, cybercrime and environmental protection.
The burning question of death penalty was discussed in great detail. Prof. Liu pointed out that the number of death penalty crimes has been notably reduced. Amendments in law as well as changes in the attitudes of adjudicators has led to a more lenient criminal policy. For instance, in the past decade the number of annual death sentences has been reduced by half. According to Prof. Liu, in the future this form of punishment will be limited even further to only severe criminals convicted for the crime of murder.
The lecture also dealt with the changes in anticorruption law. Prof. Liu introduced the newly established life imprisonment system for corrupt officials. The system excludes the possibility to commute the sentence and denies the possibility of parole. Prof. Liu specified that the system was created in response to public opinion. Formerly high ranking officials have often been released illegally back into the community, causing discontent amongst the population. The new model of life imprisonment mitigates this problem. On the other hand, Prof. Liu mentioned that the corruption threshold was increased from 5,000 CNY (approx. 680 euros) to 30,000 CNY (approx. 4,100 euros). This amendment has faced criticism as it contradicts with China’s zero-tolerance policy towards corruption.
In addition, the issues of terrorism and cybercrime as well as environmental pollution and food and drug safety were discussed during the presentation. The overall view was that Chinese criminal law was becoming more gentle and humane, and the threshold for the definition of crime against the environment has come down.
After the inspiring lecture by Prof. Liu, a variety of good questions were posed, and Prof. Liu presented extended answers. During the discussion, similarities between the Chinese and Finnish criminal laws were examined. For instance, the challenges of the impact of public opinion on criminal justice policy in the era of populism were explored. The enthusiastic audience included academics, representatives of both courts and ministries as well as students.