Wenzhou businesswoman Lin Haiyan was sentenced to death last week for illegal fundraising, highlighting China’s use of capital punishment for non-violent crimes. From Dinny McMahon at The Wall Street Journal:
According to a statement posted this week on the court website of the city of Wenzhou—known for its thriving private sector and informal banking networks—39-year old Lin Haiyan started soliciting funds in 2007, promising investors high returns at low risk. The scheme unraveled in October 2011, with Ms. Lin owing her private backers 428 million yuan, it said.
[…] Informal sources of credit have long been the lifeblood of China’s small private firms that typically can’t access loans or other forms of finances from the country’s formal financial institutions. But gathering funds to invest without regulatory approval is a legal gray area, and authorities sometimes crack down hard when investors lose money.
[…] As of the end of April, 1,449 people had been “seriously punished”–a designation that includes the death penalty and more than five years imprisonment—for illegal fundraising since 2011, said Miao Youshui, a senior judge on the People’s Supreme Court, China’s highest judicial body, at a recent news conference. In total, 4,170 people were convicted over the same period for similar economic crimes, he said. [Source]
Lin’s case quickly attracted comparison with that of Wu Ying, a young entrepreneur from Zhejiang whose death sentence was effectively reduced to life imprisonment last year following a public backlash. Wu’s supporters argued that capital punishment would have been disproportionate to her non-violent crime, but this principle is unevenly accepted: execution of corrupt officials, like that of violent offenders, enjoys considerable public support in China.
Amnesty International reported in April that China remains the clear world leader in executions, with thousands believed to have been carried out last year. The exact number is deemed a state secret.