China reported that the number of people sentenced to death in 2006 was the lowest in nearly a decade, and officials project that this trend will continue in 2007. According to a state media report, during the first five months of 2007, the number of death sentences handed out in cases of first instance dropped approximately 10% from the same time in 2006. The decline stems from a key legal reform requiring that all death sentences be approved by the Supreme People's Court, a change made in response to widespread concerns about wrongful convictions.
"Among the death penalty cases the Supreme People's Court reviewed from January to July, a relatively large proportion was not given approval. That is to say, executions would have been authorised (by provincial courts) if the final review power had not been taken back [by the Supreme Court]," Jiang Xingchang, vice president of the top court, told Outlook Weekly magazine.