Death with reprieve (simplified Chinese: 死刑缓期执行; traditional Chinese: 死刑緩期執行; pinyin: sǐxíng huǎnqī zhíxíng, abbr.: 死缓; 死緩; Sǐhuǎn) is a criminal punishment found in the law of the People's Republic of China. According to the criminal law chapter 5 (death penalty), sections 48, 50 and 51, it gives the death row inmate a two-year suspended sentence of the execution. The convicted person will be executed if found to intentionally commit further crimes during the two years following the sentence; otherwise, the sentence is automatically reduced to life imprisonment or, if the person is found to have performed deeds of merit during the two years, fixed-term imprisonment.[1]

Unlike pardon (clemency), in which the relief of the penalty is decided after the death penalty has been pronounced, reprieve is pronounced directly in place of the death sentence to the prisoner who has committed the potentially capital crime.

Chinese courts hand down this form of sentencing as frequently as, or more often than,[2] actual death sentences. This unique sentence is used to emphasize the seriousness of the crime and the mercy of the court, and has a centuries-old history in Chinese jurisprudence.[3]

After The Amendment (IX) to the Criminal Law of the People's Republic of China in 2015, courts may act according to the circumstances for criminals charged with bribery or "plundering the public treasury", possibly issuing a sentence without commutation or parole when the sentence was automatically reduced to life imprisonment (such as Bai Enpei). That means when a two-year suspended sentence of execution is over, a sentence of "death with reprieve without commutation or parole" will automatically be reduced to life imprisonment, regardless of any deeds of merit performed during the two years, and the criminal will spend the rest of their life in jail, with no chance of a reduction to fixed-term imprisonment or parole.

See also


  1. ^ Gazette of the State Council of the People's Republic of China (PDF) (in Chinese), Government of the People's Republic of China, 4 April 1997, retrieved 20 August 2012
  2. ^ Trevaskes, Susan (May–June 2008). "The Death Penalty in China Today: Kill Fewer, Kill Cautiously". Asian Survey. 48 (3): 393–413. doi:10.1525/as.2008.48.3.393. hdl:10072/26121.
  3. ^ Scobell, Andrew (September 1990). "The Death Penalty in Post-Mao China". China Quarterly (123): 503–520.