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Death penalty does not hold answer to corruption   2012-03-14 11:40:00

"If corruption of over 500,000 ($79,048) yuan is punishable by death, no official will dare to do that anymore," said Zhao Runtian, secretary of the Heze city committee of the CPC, Shandong Province, and a deputy to the National People's Congress, on Monday.

His comment was enthusiastically retweeted. Many netizens have voiced their support for the idea. Public opinion favors heavier punishment against corruption, but it is rare for an official to openly suggest a radically heavy approach.

Some netizens even suggested an even lower threshold which would see corrupt officials face capital punishment.

Corruption has been a major source of public anger in China and is one of the factors that could threaten the country's stability as discontent over social injustice and the wealth gap grows. Despite various efforts to contain the problem, the situation remains distressing. This is probably why Zhao's suggestion was the most discussed topic of the day. The public, increasingly impatient over the country's slow anti-corruption progress, wants to see a quick solution even at the cost of a dramatic approach.

The seriousness of corruption cannot be emphasized enough. But can a cruel punishment be an effective way to deter potential offenders? History doesn't seem to prove this. Zhu Yuanzhang, the founding emperor of China's Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), earned a controversial reputation for torturing and slaughtering officials found to have taken even small bribes. But he was still puzzled at his failure to root out official graft.

Extreme punishments may suppress serious crimes like corruption temporarily but not solve them. The violent nature of the punishment will cast a negative effect on a civilized society.

As we have witnessed in the past, public opinion has demonstrated a worrying sign of suggesting harsh punishments when a high-profile case emerges. This emotion often quickly overwhelms the rational thought process necessary to analyze these cases in detail. Worse, this kind of collective emotion is often reflected in the final court ruling.

China's corruption issue, albeit complicated, stems from a lack of a working supervision mechanism and a functional enforcement procedure. Officials at grassroots level are not fully committed to reforms that can help contain the problem. The emotion spurred by the dissatisfaction over the issue only trap public in this debate.

source : Global Times     editor:: Ma Ting
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