BEIJING, Oct. 28 (Xinhua) -- A draft amendment to modify the criteria for imposing penalties on criminals found guilty of corruption and bribes came at the right time.
The draft amendment to the Criminal Law was submitted to the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC), China's top legislature, on Monday for a first reading during the session, which runs from Monday to Saturday.
The document proposes dismissing using benchmark monetary amounts as a criterion for sentencing in graft and bribery cases.
The current Criminal Law, enacted in 1997, stipulates that the penalty for corrupt officials should be meted out according to the amount of illegal money value involved. The benchmarks for sentencing in graft cases are currently set at 5,000 yuan (about 817 .U.S. dollars), 50,000 yuan, and 100,000 yuan. Cases with an amount of more than 100,000 yuan will be sentenced to more than 10 years in prison, or life imprisonment. Death penalty will be given to the most serious cases.
The criteria, though specific in nature, is outdated considering the pace at which the Chinese economy has grown in the past 17 years. For instance, per capita household disposable income for urban families amounted to 26,955.1 yuan in 2013. In 1997, it was 5160.3 yuan, according to the data of the National Bureau of Statistics.
Therefore, the 100,000 benchmark, which was considered a huge amount of money in 1990s, is no longer as reasonable.
In the last decade, the amount of money in graft cases reached millions. Li Daqiu, former vice chairman of the Guangxi Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, was found in Oct. guilty of illegally accepting 10.95 million yuan in bribes from others.
According to the draft amendment, the sentencing will be made according to three categories which pay attention to both the amount of money and the seriousness of the crime. Those with especially large amounts or those whose case has led to a huge loss of national interest and people's interest, will face death sentence.
Without sentences based on benchmarks, the courts will be given more flexibility in giving an appropriate sentence for each specific case.
The draft amendment also imposes harsher penalties for those offering bribes by making it harder for them to escape a sentence.
The move comes in response to a rise in bribery cases. According to statistics from the Supreme People's Procuratorate, procuratorate authorities investigated 4,397 suspects for offering bribes in the first six months this year, an increase of 37.6 percent from the same period last year.
If more suspects who offer bribes face penalty as the draft amendment aims to achieve, even those who confess to bribery before they are prosecuted can not easily escape sentencing.
The draft amendment, which came at a time when China is focused on advancing rule of law, signals that the nation is making concrete efforts to build a better legal system to stem corruption