Friday, March 27, 2009

China to Celebrate With Pardons?

Asia Times reports Chinese imperial courts have "traditionally celebrated special events, such as the crowning of a new emperor, with a special pardon for prisoners." Such pardons were meant as an "act of benevolence" to "shore up loyalty among the emperor's subjects and to promote harmony in society." Interestingly, the practice has continued since the start of communist rule (in 1949). On the 10th anniversary of the People's Republic of China, for example, 70,000 prisoners were released. However, the last special pardon was granted way back in 1975. So, as the Republic approaches its 60th birthday, Asia Times reports "there have been calls from scholars and rights groups in and outside China to follow the tradition."

Scholars calling for mercy? Hmmm. Sounds familiar.

One legal expert is specifically calling on the government to release "first-time offenders" who "committed petty crimes, have shown good behavior or do not pose a danger to society." He argues such pardons would "inspire good behavior from offenders," show show the world "China's respect for human rights and "improve the country's international image." A law professor is concerned, however, that the pardon power "could easily be misused to release corrupt officials or those who had clout within the government or money to bribe their way out of prison." He also argues there is little support for clemency for criminals in Chinese culture because the forgiveness of criminals is seen as unfair to victims.

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