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Death Penalty & Capital Punishment

For a long time, Hong Kong and mainland China have used death penalty and capital punishment as a means of deterring individuals from committing crimes in the society. The death penalty has been considered as the most appropriate form of punishment that will help to shape the behavior of criminals. Due to the increased involvement of human rights activists and government stakeholders, there has been an increased debate on death and capital punishment in the two areas (Crewe, Hulley, & Wright 2017, p. 1360). In 1993, death penalty and capital punishment were abolished in Hong Kong and, instead, it was decided that any person liable for death penalty should be imprisoned for life. Major offenses that were punishable by death include murder, kidnapping, and piracy, which were severe offenses. With respect to the death penalty, it was argued that criminals would not get any chance to reform and have a second chance to live. Many people considered that death was not the only means of punishment, which was against human rights in Asia.

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In mainland China, death and capital punishment are still legal practices used to prevent further crimes in the region. Major crimes punished with death include murder and drug trafficking and it is typically executed through a gunshot or lethal injection. Every year, China usually carries out death penalty in large numbers, which is also often a state secret.

Background of the Topic

Death penalty and capital punishment were considered to be among the five penalties in the China’s dynasty. Historically, poor citizens in China were generally subjected to capital punishment and wealthy and high-ranking people were submitted to death penalty as a social control means. King Wu rules that all government officers who were not royal were to be punished through death penalty. Initially, the first type of capital punishment was through torture, which began in Qin Dynasty as a means of controlling crime.

Objectives of the Paper

The primary aim of the article is to try and explain effectiveness of death penalty and capital punishment as compared to other correction methods in the society. Therefore, it will be possible to compare Hong Kong that has abolished death penalty and China that still currently uses the technique to prevent crime. The argumentative essay will also take into consideration the human rights perspective to give a person a second chance to live and change their behavior.

Research Questions

The paper will try to answer the following research questions:

  • What are other alternative means of punishment other than death penalty?
  • What are the pros and cons of death penalty?
  • Does death penalty deter significant crime?
  • Do criminals such as murderers deserve to die?
  • What are the main differences between Hong Kong and mainland China regarding crime prevention?
  • Do human rights activists support death penalty?

Literature Review

Death penalty is considered as a severe capital punishment when a person is formally sentenced to death by the judicial system for any crime committed (Bohm 2016, p. 2). The research indicates that capital punishment has been practiced and applied in some countries as a means of preventing crime in the society. According to the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC), death penalty and capital punishment were used in the new world since the moment Captain George Kendall was sentenced to death in Jamestown in 1608 (Miller, Wood, & Chomos 2014, p. 740). There has been an argument between those people supporting the method and those who are against this correction method.

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Individuals opposing this punishment method indicate that it is a violation of human rights. Over the years, China has been against criminals, which explains introduction and maintenance of capital punishment as a way to deter and prevent significant crimes such as murder and drug trafficking (Bohm 2016, p. 2). According to the DPIC, many countries like China still practice death penalty to prevent crimes in the country. Other nations such as Hong Kong have abolished the punishment, which is viewed as a violation of human rights (Bohm 2016, p. 2). Moreover, women have not been executed through death penalty as they are considered to be inherently good due to the gender stereotype.

California is considered as the first state to embrace capital punishment for major crimes such as robbery, rape, and murder. This punishment was established in the 18th century B.C. under the rule of King Hammurabi of Babylon (Chui & Cheng 2015, p. 1070). By 1700, death penalty had been accepted and applied by many other countries and 222 crimes were punished with death. With increased revolution and civilization, after World War Two the UN General Assembly indicated that there was a need to protect the right to life for all people (Chui & Cheng 2015, p. 1070). The world governing body stated that rehabilitation centers were the best practical method for helping drug addicts overcome and change their morals (Wong 2017, p. 3). Moreover, the cost of death penalty was also viewed to be higher than that of imprisonment; hence, they insisted it should be abolished.

Moreover, statistics indicate that poor people usually lack justice since they are the ones who will receive death penalty as the rich have enough money to buy their freedom in the court system. Some judges are corrupt and would also ask for a considerable amount of money to offer a lenient ruling (Chui & Cheng, 2015 p. 1070). A sick person will, therefore, have to keep on moving within the corridors of justice without any help. In the USA, most immigrants have also been subjected to death penalty due to various crimes committed (Bohm 2016, p. 2). With respect to other related literature sources, the present essay is able to relate to them and link with other authors’ works in order to analyze effectiveness of death penalty or capital punishment as compared to other means of correction.

Alternative Means of Punishment Other than Death Penalty

There are various methods that should be used to correct significant crimes committed without violation of the constitutional right to life. Incapacitation is the best alternative to death penalty whereby individuals who commit major crimes such as murder are sentenced to life imprisonment. Life imprisonment allows criminals to change their behavior to reform and adhere to strict laws of every country (Chui, Cheng, & Yoke 2015, p. 101). Everybody deserves a second chance in life and death penalty is not the best solution for crime prevention. In prisons, inmates are provided with various rehabilitation services and are offered increased guidance and counseling for their welfare. More skills are presented to them to ensure they can cope with life after prison in case the head of state will pardon them (Bohm 2016, p. 2). After serving for many years and with clear proof of reformed behavior, the president can forgive them and offer them a chance to start their life again. In such a case, most of major crime offenders in Hong Kong are sentenced to life imprisonment instead of capital punishment that is against human rights in Asia.

Pros of Death Penalty

Death penalty has been used in China to prevent cases of corruption within the government. Any person involved with corruption cases is usually sentenced to death to serve as an example to other people involved in such a situation. For example, there was execution of two deputy mayors of Hangzhou and Suzhou who were also convicted for corruption (Chui, Cheng, & Yoke 2015, p. 101). Globally, China is the leading country for sentencing corrupt executives to death penalty. The act of death penalty for corrupt officials in China has, therefore, helped prevent any further corruption cases, hence ensuring better use of public funds. Many people in the government fear to engage in corruption, which ensures that the Chinese Government has enough funds for economic growth and development such as infrastructure development.

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It is also the best method to deter criminals from engaging in other illegal activities such as murder. Many people fear death; hence, introduction of death penalty will help many individuals observe the law and order of the country. Therefore, before anybody thinks of committing a crime such as murder in China or other parts of the world, he/she will remember that punishment is death, thereby refraining from committing the offense (Chui, Cheng, & Yoke 2015, p. 101). In China, if a person is found guilty of drug trafficking, he/she will be automatically be sentenced to death to eliminate the person from the society.

Death penalty is not as expensive as life imprisonment for any government such as the Chinese one since imprisoning inmates will require daily feeding, shelter, and clothing for prisoners to satisfy their basic needs. The more people are sentenced to life, the more it will cost the government that will be using taxpayers’ money. In case a person is sentenced to death, it will help to cut down the cost considerably.

There are some violent crimes such as serial killers or terrorists who do not deserve to live in the society as they are a danger to human life. In case such people are sentenced to life imprisonment, they end up escaping and then they can engage in revenge against all the witnesses.

Cons of Death Penalty

More than 100 states all over the world have eliminated the use of death penalty as a means of preventing crimes. It is against human rights in Asia; besides, it is a sin to kill. According to Christianity or Islam, it is a sin to take away life of another person (Chui, Cheng, and Yoke 2015, p. 101). Therefore, most Christians do not support death penalty and consider it to be inhumane. Many people also argue that regardless of how dangerous a crime that a person has committed is, death penalty is not the best option as the government can use life imprisonment as a correction method.

Most methods used in China for execution of death penalty are very crude and inhumane as criminals are subject to much pain and suffering before they die, for instance, from shooting, hanging, or lethal injections. Death penalty should also be discouraged as some crimes may be committed on impulse, for example, a person who murders somebody out of anger and later regrets it does not deserve death penalty. Finally, capital punishment violates the person’s constitutional right to life.

Does Death Penalty Deter Significant Crime?

Death penalty can deter many crimes from happening, for instance, in China where corruption cases are prevented among government officials. In China, drug trafficking, rape, and murder are considered to be grave crimes that are all prevented through death penalty as many people fear to die (Lu, Miethe, & Liang 2016, p. 6). Other researches indicate that there is no credible evidence that death penalty will help deter crime in the best way like life imprisonment, especially in Hong Kong. States such as Hong Kong, which have abolished death penalty, have higher chances of crime prevention. Some people commit a crime under the influence of alcohol or drug or because of some mental illness, which is why life imprisonment is the most suitable option for them.

Do Criminals such as Murderers Deserve to Die?

The Hong Kong’s government believes that no murderer deserves to die since it is against human rights in Asia. The UN has also provided opinions on the matter, encouraging states to apply other methods of behavior correction (Lu, Miethe, & Liang 2016, p. 6). Everybody in Hong Kong deserves to live and alternative solution other than death penalty would help to avoid death of murderers. Recent research from Hong Kong indicates that people there support life imprisonment as an alternative method of punishment for significant crimes.

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Differences between Hong Kong and China in Crime Prevention

There are slight differences between the two nations regarding crime prevention as China applies death penalty to deter major crimes like rape or murder, while Hong Kong has abolished capital punishment for life imprisonment. The last execution in Hong Kong was carried out in 1966 when Kai Kei was hanged (Lu, Miethe, & Liang 2016, p. 6). In response, the Chinese government has indicated that death penalty would be removed in the future when the right time comes for that. Moreover, across the globe most human rights activists are against death penalty that they consider to be inhumane punishment.

Further Discussion

In the modern world, there has not been any person executed based on Hong Kong courts’ decisions for more than 20 years, while in China death penalty is still used to deter crime. There is a significant implication of the law in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) (Reckless 2017, p. 40). In Hong Kong, murder, piracy, and treason were all punishable by death, but since its abolishment individuals have usually been imprisoned for life.

The legality of criminal charges is evaluated before being presented to a judge in Hong Kong. In most cases, a barrister and a solicitor will represent an accused person for any crime committed; hence, the case will later be heard by judges. When the judge decides that the accused is guilty, life imprisonment will be issued.

Chinese courts can use and depend on death penalty as the means of preventing crime. For example, in 1983 four men were given the death sentence for robbing a Guangdong store whereby relevant laws were applied. There are individual cases when young people below the age of eighteen cannot be granted death penalty until they attain the majority age (Li, Longmire, & Lu 2018, p. 260). The best examples of execution in China include those of Mao’s widow named Jiang Qing, as well as Zhang chunqiao who received their death penalty in 1981. The two were a part of a gang consisting of four people who were a threat to the citizens’ security.

Further details of death penalty sentencing mostly remain a state secret in China. However, according to the Dui Hua Foundation, which is a human rights group, China executed 2,400 prisoners in 2013 to prevent crime (Gross, O’Brien, Hu, & Kennedy 2014, p. 12). China continues retaining death penalty and has agreed to control and apply it for the benefit of the state security. There has been increased pressure from international bodies, but China has proved to be unmoved by their suggestions of abolishing death penalty.


Most states in the world have applied capital punishment within their judicial system to prevent major crimes such as rape, drug trafficking, and murder. China has continued using death penalty despite international pressure from the UN and Amnesty International encouraging it to abolish the harsh way of punishing criminals. In 1993, Hong Kong was able to abolish death penalty and replace it with life imprisonment (Lu, Miethe, & Liang 2016, p. 6). Many people opposing the punishment believe that it is against human rights and against religious beliefs since in the Bible it is stated: “Thou shall not kill.” Life imprisonment is, therefore, considered as the best alternative option to capital punishment since even murderers and other criminals deserve a second chance to reform and change their behavior. Prisoners are provided with an excellent platform to learn and acquire different skills that they can apply in case they receive the pardon from the president for the behavior change.

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However, death penalty is considered to be a useful method for preventing crime, especially in China; any corrupt individual who is charged for a serious crime will be automatically hanged. It has, therefore, prevented corruption cases, thereby ensuring better use of public funds that would be used for infrastructure development. Other major criminals such as murderers do not deserve life imprisonment since they can find their way out of prison and end up committing more crimes.

Food for Further Thought

By the year of 2047, China is expected to fully reintegrate Hong Kong and there has been increased dialogue and discussion on the “one country, two systems.” Members of that forum led by Henry Ho Kinchung want to discuss the legal implication of the merge of the two nations. A number of Chinese researchers and scholars concerning Hong Kong continues increasing. Some people also believe that in 50 years, i.e. in 2047, they will be deprived of the freedom they currently enjoy. There will be various problems in 2047 such as residential mortgages since a new 30-year lease will be introduced that will be in place after 2047. It is, therefore, expected that after 2047 Hong Kong will not be able to properly integrate with mainland China’s policies, especially concerning death penalty issues (Lu, Miethe, & Liang 2016, p. 6). Thus, there is a need for more research and contribution of international stakeholders to ensure that the ‘one country two system’ policy will become effective in the long run.

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