On Recent Changes to Life Imprisonment in the Context of the Gradual Reduction in the Use of the Death Penalty in China

Huang Gui


China is improving its criminal law to gradually reduce the use of the death penalty, particularly in the Eighth and Ninth Amendments, and the law relating to the use of life imprisonment has also been changed in these two amendments, including upgrading it to the maximum punishment for those crimes from which the death penalty has been removed and reforming its termination mechanisms which include life imprisonment with possibility of release (LWPR) and without release (LWOR). In the light of this, following the introductory section, this paper will explore the upgrading of life imprisonment to the maximum punishment in these two amendments and analyze the reasons for this, which include the requirements of the proportionality principle, and the influence of the severe penalty doctrine, as well as political considerations. The paper will then examine the reforms carried out by the two amendments and relative judicial interpretations for the termination mechanism of life imprisonment on the basis of the conditions for its use as a sentence and its prevalence. Finally, the paper will make proposals for improving the current situation. These proposals include reducing the number of crimes punishable by life imprisonment and removing LWOR from the law, as well as explicitly defining applicable conditions.


Life Imprisonment; Death Penalty; The Eight Amendment; The Ninth Amendment; China

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DOI: 10.6092/issn.2531-6133/8150


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