Chinese President Xi Jinping signs a prisoner amnesty deal in Beijing, capital of China, Aug. 29, 2015. The Standing Committee of China's National People's Congress (NPC), China's top legislature, adopted a prisoner amnesty deal at the closing meeting of the 16th session of the 12th NPC Standing Committee here on Saturday. Four categories of prisoners who are not deemed a threat to society and who were sentenced before Jan. 1, 2015, including criminals who fought in the War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression and in the civil war against the Kuomintang (KMT), will be considered. (Xinhua/Lan Hongguang)
BEIJING, Aug. 29 (Xinhua) -- China's top legislature has adopted a prisoner amnesty deal which will see thousands of war veterans as well as very old, young or infirm prisoners granted official pardons, in a move marking the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II on Sept. 3.
The deal, promulgated by President Xi Jinping on Saturday, comes 40 years after China granted an amnesty to war criminals in 1975, and 56 years after it granted its first pardon to non-war criminals in 1959.
This is the eighth amnesty since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949.
Four categories of prisoners who are not deemed a threat to society and who were sentenced before Jan. 1, 2015, will be considered:
1) Criminals who fought in the War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression and the civil war against the Kuomintang (KMT).
2) Criminals who participated in wars to safeguard national sovereignty, security and territorial integrity after 1949, with the exception of those found guilty of serious crimes including embezzlement and bribe-taking, terrorism and organized crime, as well repeat offenders.
3) Criminals who are 75 or above, and those with physical disabilities who are unable to care for themselves.
4) Those who committed crimes while under the age of 18 and received a maximum sentence of three years in prison, or who have less than a year of their prison term to serve, with the exception of those convicted of homicide, rape, terrorism or narcotics offences.
The National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee, China's top legislature, reviewed a draft of the resolution during a bimonthly session that started on Monday. The lawmakers voted on it on Saturday.
Li Shishi, director of the committee's legislative affairs commission, made clear while briefing the session that the amnesty is designed to exclude people guilty of embezzlement and bribe-taking, as China continues a campaign against official corruption.
SEVERAL THOUSAND PRISONERS WILL QUALIFY
Judicial authorities have been preparing for the amnesty since May and estimate there are "several thousand qualified prisoners," with the oldest aged 95.
All pardoned prisoners will be released by the end of this year, said Prof. Chu Huaizhi of Peking University, one of the government's consultants on the amnesty.
"For the aged who are unable to care for themselves, the government will offer help for their life out of prison," he said.
The exact number of pardoned prisoners will not be known until provincial courts and prisons complete all the amnesty rulings later this year, Chu said, stressing how complicated their decisions will be.
Li urged strict and prudent selection of criminals fit for the amnesty.
Chu said all prisoners who fought in the War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression and the civil war will be more than 80 years old. Their number is very small and they do not pose a threat to society, so they should all be granted amnesty.
This amnesty reflects China's tradition of respecting the elderly and caring for the young, and it is in line with the Criminal Law, which was amended in 2011 to allow leniency in the punishment of the aged, according to the professor.
Gao Mingxuan, honorary president of the China Criminal Law Research Society, said the amnesty "shows respect for human rights."
GREAT POLITICAL, LEGAL SIGNIFICANCE
Li said amnesties are a humanitarian practice common internationally but this one has "great political and legal significance" due to its scheduling for the war anniversary.
Gao said the amnesty, along with the military parade and other events marking the anniversary on Sept. 3, will remind people to "remember history, oppose war and cherish peace."
Granting amnesty to war veterans is an apt recognition of their contributions to the conflicts, and it shows China's resolution to safeguard world peace, according to Chu.
Gao noted other amnesties granted on the occasion of national festivities or big political occasions in other countries, including Germany's Christmas amnesty, the Republic of Korea Liberation Day amnesty and the Thai king's birthday amnesty.
Law experts and prison managers consulted by the government ahead of China's amnesty thoroughly researched these international equivalents, he said.
To mark the 70th anniversary of its independence from France, Vietnam has pardoned more than 18,000 prisoners, who will be released from Monday.
Gao said the amnesty also shows China's criminal policy of "combining punishment with leniency" and that it would help promote rule of law.
In his briefing, Li told lawmakers the act would show the government and country's confidence in its system of governance and give China an "open, democratic, civilized and legal" image.
Past Chinese amnesties included those granted to KMT war criminals as well as Puyi, the last Qing emperor who collaborated with the invading Japanese during the 1930s and 40s.
China's Constitution specifies the process by which an amnesty must be granted. The NPC Standing Committee decides to issue one, the president promulgates the order, the courts handle respective cases, the procuratorates supervise the process and the police enforce the order.
Gao expressed hope that the process can be perfected 40 years since it was last applied.
"Released criminals will be grateful to society" and the move will alleviate pressure on prisons and save judicial resources, he said.