21 June 2019

Under new judicial guidelines, officials taking bribes of more than $450,000 will face death penalty. Previously this amount was $15,000. The new standards replace those set out in the Criminal Law in 1997.

Death penalty has seldom been imposed on senior corrupt officials in recent years. Instead, they have been given death sentences suspended for two years. Suspended sentences can later be commuted to life imprisonment if no additional offences are committed during the suspension period. Life terms can also be reduced. Death penalty with immediate execution must be approved by the Supreme People’s Court. Death penalty is not applicable to pregnant women, minors, and in most cases seniors more than seventy years old.

Former railways minister Liu Zhijun was given a suspended death sentence in 2013 for taking $9 million in bribes. That sentence was commuted to life imprisonment last year.

Former security tsar Zhou Yongkang was jailed for life in June for $19 million in bribes he and his family took.

Officials taking bribes of $4,500 or more will be prosecuted. However, bribes amounting $1,500 may be prosecuted if the offences are “relatively serious”.

In one of the latest initiatives by the Communist Party, China is set to launch a campaign against organised crime and government officials who shelter criminal organisations.