From the Financial Times (link):
Like all conscientious Chinese sovereigns, Emperor Kangxi took his role as court of final appeal for the vast country’s judicial death sentences with the utmost seriousness. “[The ruler] knows that administrative errors in government bureaux can be rectified, but that a criminal who has been executed cannot be brought back to life any more than a chopped string can be joined together again,” wrote Kangxi, who ruled China from 1661 to 1722.
So Kangxi would no doubt approve of moves by Beijing’s modern-day mandarins to reform the country’s capital punishment system. After years of fierce criticism from international human rights groups for its liberal use of the death penalty, China is moving to tighten judicial safeguards for capital cases.
From the second half of this year, all death penalty appeals are to be heard in open court – giving condemned convicts and their lawyers the chance to put their cases directly to senior judges rather than have their fates decided on the basis of written reports. Even more important, the Supreme People’s Court is preparing to take back from regional courts the right of final confirmation of death sentences.