Responding to domestic and international criticism of its extensive use of capital punishment, China adopted new rules on Tuesday requiring review of all death sentences by the Supreme People's Court, reports the New York Times. The move, which goes into effect on Jan. 1, restores a power that was stripped from the Supreme Court in 1983 and given to provincial courts as part of a major crackdown on crime. Human rights groups and Chinese legal scholars have cited the widespread and arbitrary use of the death penalty.
China executes more people every year than all other nations combined, by some Chinese estimates, up to 10,000 a year. Chinese courts have been embarrassed in recent years by a number of executions of people who were later proved innocent. China's legislature approved the amendment to the law, “the most important reform of capital punishment in China in more than two decades,” according to the official state news agency. It estimated that the number of executions could drop by as much as 30 percent.