A common justification for retention of capital punishment in China is the strong public support it enjoys. However, results of a recent survey designed by the Max Planck Institute for Foreign and International Criminal Law paint a more nuanced portrait of views of Chinese citizens.

While a majority (58 percent) of nearly 4,500 adults from Beijing, Hunan, and Guangdong expressed support for the death penalty when asked for their general position on the subject, support varied widely when respondents were asked about applying the death penalty for specific offenses and in certain scenarios.

Responses also reveal considerable indifference and ignorance about capital punishment, with large numbers reported that they were undecided on the issue, even for very general questions. Researchers suggest this is due in part to the dearth of public information about the death penalty. The finding below, with respondents overwhelmingly favoring that the government disclose the number of executions each year, certainly suggests that Chinese citizens prefer greater transparency about how many people are put to death in their country.

Source: Dietrich Oberwittler & Shenghui Qi, Public Opinion on the Death Penalty in China: Results from a General Population Survey Conducted in Three Provinces in 2007/08, Forschung Aktuell/Research in Brief 41 (June 2009).

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