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China's Death Penalty and the Dynamic Interaction of Chinese Courts, Chinese Communist Party and the Public Opinion

While becoming an increasingly prosperous economic superpower in the twenty-first century, China is still the world’s leader in the imposition of death sentences and executions in modern times. China’s power holder, Chinese Communist Party, still chooses to retain death penalty as an effective tool to punish criminals and maintain social order, even though restricting and abolishing death penalty in both law and practice has become an irreversible international trend since the second half of last Century. Many scholars have already discussed in their books or articles about the history, laws and practice of China’s death penalty, as well as the reasons contributing to China’s death penalty exceptionalism. In order to add a piece to the big jigsaw puzzle of China’s death penalty, I focus my PhD research on Chinese Courts of various levels (how they deal with death penalty cases and how they interact with other legal institutions). To be more specific, my dissertation is going to explore the following issues: (1) the degree to which Chinese legal institutions, the courts of various levels in particular, have developed their capacities in dealing with death penalty cases professionally and in deflecting, capturing and leading public opinions in relation to death penalty; (2) What the dynamical relations are among Chinese legal institutions, horizontally and vertically when dealing with death penalty cases. (3) How Chinese legal institutions (courts, procuratorates, etc.) interact with political institutions in death penalty cases.   In order to find out the answers, I am going to analyze representative death penalty cases in China during the past 30 years, Chinese criminal law, criminal procedure law and death penalty policies during different eras (Mao’s, Deng’s, Xi’s, etc.), as well as interview judges, prosecutors, Chinese Communist Party officials. I hope that my research can find a way for Chinese courts to be more active in reducing death penalty imposition in practice and make certain contributions to China’s criminal justice and human rights protection.