Chinese researchers, lawyers and NGOs all face challenges when working on the use of the death penalty in China. Research is hampered by the lack of transparency and access to data. Criminal defence lawyers representing death penalty cases experience problems with disclosure of evidence and pressure from the police, procuratorate and the courts to secure a conviction. Although the authorities do not view the death penalty as a politically sensitive topic, they do view the ways of working of NGOs as a threat and often try to disrupt their activities or advocacy.

The Rights Practice held a side event at the 7th World Congress Against the Death Penalty, the world’s leading abolitionist event, in Brussels in February 2019. With Chinese participants we led a panel discussion on the situation in China and reflected on challenging the death penalty in a highly authoritarian environment.

Chinese colleagues offered insights into the challenges they face in researching the death penalty and the creative ways in which they navigate the limited space that they have to work in. During the Congress our guests also attended plenary sessions on business and the death penalty, death row prisoners and their families: assistance and support, and women and the death penalty. An estimated 1,500 government officials and representatives of non-governmental organizations, as well as exonerees and families, from more than 140 countries attended the three-yearly event.

On the final evening, attendees celebrated the four days of the Congress by marching through the streets of Brussels calling for the abolition of the death penalty.

The Rights Practice produced an Interim Review of the Death Penalty in China in time for the Congress. This examined how far the minimum standards set out in the UN Safeguards guaranteeing protection of the rights of those facing the death penalty, are respected in China’s application of capital punishment. See full report here.