Thousands of prisoners will be released from jails across China by the year-end after the government decided on Saturday to implement a criminal amnesty legislation to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II on September 3 and the end of the Japanese occupation of the country. This is the only the eighth time that China has granted pardon to prisoners since its formation in 1949 and the last one came four decades ago.
The decision to implement the amnesty deal, it is said, was on the lines Germany’s Christmas amnesty, South Korean Liberation day amnesty and the King of Thailand’s famous birthday amnesty.
China is often criticised for its human rights record with many individual freedoms – like the freedom of speech and expression – severely restricted and censored. The judicial process too comes under criticism as the judiciary is not independent of the ruling-Communist Party of China (CPC) and its functioning is said to be opaque.
The amnesty deal could be seen as China’s effort to give added significance to the September 3 mega military parade and other events to mark the day – and project a softer side of its internal policies.
Four categories of prisoners will be pardoned under the scheme. The categories are those who fought against the Japanese and the Kuomintang, those who fought for the country but were not charged with serious crimes like terrorism and organised crime, prisoners who are above 75 or have physical disabilities, and young criminals who committed crimes before 18.
But those who committed crimes like murders, rapes, terrorism and drugs-related crimes will not be part of the list, official news agency, Xinhua said in a report.
It has also been clarified that those accused of embezzlement and accepting bribes will not be excluded from the list as part of China’s continuing campaign against "official corruption".
The exact number is not known yet but officials estimate that several thousand prisoners qualify under the deal; the oldest one is aged 95.
Gao Mingxuan, honorary president of the China Criminal Law Research Society, was quoted by Xinhua as saying said the amnesty "shows respect for human rights".
Gao said the amnesty, along with the military parade and other events marking the anniversary on September 3, will remind people to “remember history, oppose war and cherish peace.”