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The Next FrontierNational Development, Political Change, and the Death Penalty in Asia$

David T. Johnson and Franklin E. Zimring

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780195337402

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: May 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195337402.001.0001

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(p.365) Appendix B: Hong Kong and Macao

(p.365) Appendix B: Hong Kong and Macao

Source:
The Next Frontier
Publisher:
Oxford University Press

In 2007, ten years after Hong Kong returned to the Chinese mainland under the PRC's “one country, two systems” policy, it remained the richest, freest, and most Westernized part of China (with a higher income per capita than Britain's) even while its politics were less democratic than India's before independence (Morris 1997; Buruma 2001a:234). If Hong Kong were an independent country, its population of seven million would place it about 100th out of 238 nations, below Switzerland and above Israel (and about the same as the American states of Washington or Indiana). But of course Hong Kong is not an independent country; it is (under the terms of the 1984 Sino‐British Joint Declaration) a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the PRC that has been allowed to retain its capitalist system and some degree of autonomy until 2047. Under this scheme, the central government of the PRC is responsible for the territory's defense and foreign affairs, while Hong Kong maintains its own legal system, police force, customs policy, monetary system, and delegates to international organizations and events.

The first four sections of this appendix describe and explain the major turning points in Hong Kong's death penalty policy since the British took control of the islands in 1842, and the fifth section explores the significance of abolition in Hong Kong for other parts of the region. The final section examines capital punishment in Macao, a separate SAR of the PRC that was ruled by Portugal for more than 400 years before its return to the Chinese mainland in 1999. Under the terms of their return, both Hong Kong and Macao have retained their status as death‐penalty‐free zones, although (p.366) occasionally they have had to negotiate jurisdictional issues with China's central and provincial governments. There were also significant similarities between the two cities before their returns, for as colonies both Hong Kong and Macao administered capital punishment policies that reflected, for the most part, the policies that prevailed in the home jurisdictions of their respective colonizers.1

The Death Penalty in Hong Kong before Britain's Abolition

In 1838, China's Emperor Daoguang tried to stop his country's importation of opium, which had been a critical part of Britain's international balance‐of‐payments strategy and a central feature of its foreign policy. The British responded with military force, and three years later were able to impose a treaty that “fundamentally altered the structure of Qing relations with foreign powers” by ending a long pattern of history in which China's rulers had imposed effective controls over foreigners on their soil (Spence 1990:139). Among other benefits for Britain, the 1842 Treaty of Nanjing—“the most important treaty settlement in China's modern history” (158)—declared that Hong Kong (Victoria Island) was to be “possessed in perpetuity” by Queen Victoria and her successors and ruled as they “shall see fit.” In the century and a half between that treaty and Hong Kong's decision to abolish the death penalty in 1993, capital punishment in the colony reflected death penalty policy in Britain, albeit with a substantially more aggressive approach to execution in Hong Kong than in the home country during the period that both were still executing.2

Table B.1 shows executions and death sentence commutations in Hong Kong for the first half century after World War II (1946–1992). The “last colony's” last executions occurred in 1966, the year after Britain abolished the death penalty for ordinary crimes (Buruma 2001a:209; Hood 2002:251). In the two decades (1946–1966) before Hong Kong's hangmen went on permanent (p.367)

Table B.1 Executions and commutations in Hong Kong, 1946–1992

Year

Executions

Commutations

1946–1947

10

5

1947–1948

11

2

1948–1949

6

0

1949–1950

3

3

1950–1951

12

1

1951–1952

8

0

1952–1953

8

2

1953–1954

5

2

1954–1955

4

0

1955–1956

6

0

1956–1957

4

1

1957–1958

4

1

1958–1959

5

0

1959–1960

9

2

1960–1961

2

1

1961–1962

3

2

1962–1963

4

2

1963–1964

0

2

1964–1965

0

1

1965–1966

0

4

1966–1967

2

2

1967

0

4

1968

0

5

1969

0

3

1970

0

0

1971

0

5

1972

0

6

1973

0

12

1974

0

13

1975

0

15

1976

0

19

1977

0

10

1978

0

7

1979

0

16

1980

0

3

1981

0

12

1982

0

16

1983

0

13

1984

0

9

1985

0

22

1986

0

5

1987

0

20

1988

0

16

1989

0

6

1990

0

6

1991

0

5

1992

0

13

Total

106

294

Source: Gaylord and Galliher 1994:24.

(p.368) vacation, they executed a total of 106 persons—an average of five per year. The peak year for execution was 1950, with 12, making Hong Kong's per capita rate that year (5.4 executions per million) and in several other years rise to a level resembling those that prevailed in the PRC and Singapore some 50 years later. For the last 20 years that Hong Kong was executing, its average annual rate of 1.84 executions per million was well above the 1.0 threshold that we used in chapter 2 to define operational death penalty systems. As long as Britain retained capital punishment, Hong Kong remained a vigorous executing colony. Executions in the territory only started to wither away in the early 1960s, after double‐digit executions in England and Wales had ceased (in 1956) and just before Britain formally abolished.3

Hong Kong's Moratorium

Between the British abolition of 1965 and Hong Kong's abolition of 1993, the territory retained the death penalty in its statute books for a number of offenses, and death was the mandatory sentence on conviction for several (Vagg 1997:393). After Britain abolished, however, Hong Kong's colonial governors were forced by edict of the home government to commute death sentences to life imprisonment (Gaylord and Galliher 1994:19).4 In the two (p.369) decades before 1965, those governors commuted an average of 1.6 death sentences per year, a figure that increased sixfold (to 9.7) for the period 1966–1992. (See table B.1.)

For at least the first decade after Britain's abolition, the externally imposed moratorium on execution proved to be an unpopular policy among many Hong Kong citizens. In the early 1970s, traditional neighborhood leaders (Kaifong chiefs), the president of the Chinese Manufacturers Association, and the leader of the Buddhist Sangha Association all expressed frustration over the nonexecution policy (Gaylord and Galliher 1994:28), and Hong Kong newspaper editorials joined in the chorus by denouncing the nonenforcement policy. As the China Mail put it in 1973, “To pay lip service to a law that cannot be enforced is to make a mockery of all law. And once the rule of law is mocked, all society is threatened” (quoted in Gaylord and Galliher 1994:28). Some writers even looked forward to Hong Kong's return to a Chinese government that would not be squeamish about execution. In 1986, two decades into Hong Kong's moratorium, a survey of 1,312 residents found that 68 percent supported the death penalty for convicted murderers while only 12 percent opposed it (Gaylord and Galliher 1994:29).

Another death penalty poll was conducted in Hong Kong after the June 1989 massacres at Tiananmen Square in Beijing and in many other cities around China. An exact body count is impossible to come by, but estimates range from 300 to 2,700 people killed—most shot in the neck by single bullets (Buruma 2001a:5). In this context, Hong Kong's enthusiasm for capital punishment softened. Fifty percent of respondents still said Hong Kong should retain the death penalty (vs. 30 percent who said it should not), but on the question of whether condemned persons should actually be executed, less than 30 percent thought they should while nearly 50 percent said death sentences should be commuted to imprisonment for life or a shorter period (Vagg 1997:398).5 After Tiananmen, (p.370) public opinion generally seemed comfortable with de facto abolition, and for a few years thereafter “the death penalty was effectively a non‐issue” (394). A law that was neither enforced nor abolished seemed to appease two key audiences: the pro–capital punishment Chinese population in Hong Kong, and a majority of anti–death penalty legislators in the British Parliament (Gaylord and Galliher 1994:33).

Hong Kong's Abolition

It is possible to tell the story of Hong Kong's abolition in at least two different ways. One approach focuses narrowly on how Hong Kong legislators responded to an armed robbery wave that started in the late 1980s, and on the unexpected outcome—abolition—of a few politicians' attempts to score points with the electorate by posturing as “tough on crime.” On this view, Hong Kong's abolition is ironic, for the death penalty's demise was the result of the punitive reactions of local legislators to a rise in serious, violent, and firearms‐related crime in a city that traditionally had enjoyed levels of violence as low as those in Nordic countries (Vagg 1997).

But a broader and better approach to explaining Hong Kong's abolition frames the issue by situating death penalty policy‐making in the context of two key events involving the PRC. The first is the Tiananmen massacre of 1989 and the Chinese government's suppression of the prodemocracy movement, a one‐two punch that motivated a variety of protective responses in Hong Kong aimed at alleviating the local crisis of confidence that ensued in the soon‐to‐be‐swallowed city. One of the most important reactions was the enactment in 1991 of a bill of rights that reproduced the strongly prorights language of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The new bill of rights enabled Hong Kong courts to strike down laws, including the death penalty, that violated human rights standards. After its enactment, “it became even more unlikely that Hong Kong would bring back the rope for as long as the colony remained under British control” (Gaylord and Galliher 1994:34).

The second major fact that stimulated abolition in Hong Kong was its approaching return to the Chinese mainland in 1997. The fear of what future governments might do in Beijing and in a SAR that would be at least partly controlled from the center “left no room for complacency on the part of the colonial government” (Gaylord and Galliher 1994:34). Thus, anxiety about China's future conduct combined with concern about its behavior in the recent past to impel Hong Kong's legislature to pass a Crimes Amendment Ordinance that abolished the death penalty after it received royal assent in April 1993 (Vagg 1997:402).

The framework of law and government built up by the British over the previous 150 years—and especially a legal system that, however imperfect in practice, was based on rule‐of‐law principles—provided the critical domestic context for the enactment of Hong Kong's abolition law. A similar legal system (p.371) was handed down to Singapore when it gained independence in 1965, but it was undermined by Singaporean politicians—and by Lee Kuan Yew especially—almost as soon as the British left (Buruma 2001a:215). One of the clearest expressions of Singapore's authoritarian turn is the PRC‐like rates of execution that have prevailed there since independence (see appendix E). In the first three years after Hong Kong abolished, for example, Singapore, with 3.5 million people—a little more than half the population of Hong Kong at the time—performed at least 199 executions, for an average annual execution rate of 19 per million population (Amnesty International 2004b). This three‐year total is nearly twice as many executions as Hong Kong had (106) in the 47 years before it abolished.6

Hong Kong after Abolition

Two death penalty issues persist in Hong Kong after abolition. The first are jurisdictional: can a resident of Hong Kong be executed if he or she commits a capital offense on the Chinese mainland and is tried there? And what about offenders who flee to Hong Kong from mainland provinces? These issues have not been clearly resolved, but capital punishment is sometimes employed in both situations.

Some offenders who have fled to Hong Kong from elsewhere in China have been returned to the mainland and executed there through the process of “rendition” (Hood 2002:95). Questions have been raised about the validity of this practice, but it seems less controversial than the “rendition” of suspects and offenders who committed the bulk of their criminal acts in Hong Kong territory. In 2002, the South China Morning Post reported that “a total of 23 Hong Kong residents were either executed or sentenced to death in mainland China” in 2001 (quoted in Hands Off Cain 2002).7 Although Chinese authorities justify these death penalties on the grounds that the crimes were cross‐border or were planned on the mainland, their view has been vigorously contested by civic groups in Hong Kong. Whatever the propriety of using capital punishment against Hong Kong citizens and residents—and even if the 23 death penalties for 2001 are triple the true total—the SAR's per capita rate of 1.13 executions and death sentences per million would be higher than the United States' combined execution and death sentence rate (0.81) in the same year (and Chinese death sentences are more likely to end in execution (p.372) than are U.S. ones). What is more, human rights activists in Hong Kong contend that “the number of known SAR residents executed [in China] is just the tip of the iceberg” (quoted in Hands Off Cain 2002). Despite the formal abolition that occurred in 1993, the death penalty remains a reality in Hong Kong because of its close proximity to the PRC and because of the PRC's willingness to use the death penalty against a wide variety of offenders.

The other persistent death penalty issue for Hong Kong is whether China's central government will try to formally reintroduce capital punishment in Hong Kong in the years to come. There is little question that the PRC could do so if it really wanted to (its relationship with Hong Kong is hardly egalitarian), but it appears to have little to gain by making such an attempt (Hood and Hoyle 2008:84). Hong Kong has one of the world's highest population densities but one of its lowest homicide rates (Gaylord and Galliher 1994:22; Johnson 2006b:77), and its other crime problems do not seem especially significant by PRC standards. In addition, the process of rendition already enables the PRC to use the death penalty against offenders from Hong Kong. But perhaps the biggest obstacle to reintroducing the death penalty in Hong Kong is public relations. China's ruling regime would likely encounter “highly negative public feelings” in Hong Kong if it took a high‐handed approach to this issue (Vagg 1997:403), and the demonstration effect in Taiwan could be even worse. For the Communist Party to pursue a policy that would restart capital trials and judicial executions on Hong Kong turf would be to violate the letter and the spirit of the “one country, two systems” agreement and to alienate the prodigal sibling—Taiwan—that it wants to return to the fold. For these reasons, we do not expect to see any change in Hong Kong's abolitionist status before the current PRC–Hong Kong agreement expires in 2047. By then, China itself may no longer be communist or retentionist.

The Regional Importance of Hong Kong

Hong Kong is an important precedent for the impact of death penalty abolition in Asia but is not a significant participant in discourse about death as a punishment in the region. The value of Hong Kong as precedent is not in the mechanism of its abolition, for that was tied to its colonial status, but rather in the political and cultural response that occurred in an East Asian setting where there were few and then no executions. The political backlash to abolition in Hong Kong was very mild, almost nonexistent. Cultural ties to capital punishment had little visibility in the municipal life of Hong Kong in the quarter century after 1980, and the impact of the change on crime rates and perceptions of public safety was negligible. Thus, abolition in Hong Kong can be called a success story in these criminological and social senses. This is good news for those seeking to abolish the death penalty in Taiwan, and highly relevant news for those (p.373) who claim the roots of the mainland's prodigious rates of execution are Chinese cultural values.

Two Newspapers

In order to study the importance of the death penalty and attitudes about it in Hong Kong, we analyzed the coverage of capital punishment in two Hong Kong newspapers over the 12‐year period beginning January 1995—two years after the death penalty was formally abolished, and two years before the transfer of power from Britain to the PRC. The first newspaper surveyed was the South China Morning Post, the largest English‐language daily newspaper in Hong Kong, with an average daily circulation in 2007 of 106,054. Both “death penalty” and “capital punishment” were searched.

Table B.2 shows the total number of death penalty mentions in the Post and breaks down the stories into those concerned with Hong Kong, those concerned with the rest of the PRC, and those related to other jurisdictions in the world. The annual total of death penalty mentions varies between 39 (in 2001) and 110 (in 1995) with no clear pattern over time; the highest year was 1995, but the second highest total was for 2005.

This relatively stable death penalty coverage was almost always concentrated on death penalty stories outside of Hong Kong. In every year except 1998, there were more stories and comments on the death penalty in the PRC than about Hong Kong, and there is a clear temporal pattern away from local concerns with the death penalty in Hong Kong. Over the period 1995–1998, 62

Table B.2 Death penalty–related articles and commentaries in the South China Morning Post, 1995–2006, by geographic area that is the subject of comment

Mainland China

Hong Kong

Others

Total

1995

30

16

64

110

1996

22

13

24

59

1997

12

7

23

42

1998

24

26

13

63

1999

31

7

14

52

2000

44

4

22

70

2001

26

3

10

39

2002

46

2

15

63

2003

18

4

18

40

2004

16

8

35

59

2005

36

0

40

76

2006

35

3

30

68

Source: Analysis of South China Morning Post by Jiang Su, visiting scholar, Boalt Hall School of Law, University of California at Berkeley, March 2008.

(p.374) of the 274 newspaper items concerning the death penalty were about Hong Kong—23 percent of all death penalty stories. In the seven years after 1998, only 31 of 467 death penalty stories concerned Hong Kong—just 7 percent. By the turn of the 21st century in Hong Kong, capital punishment was PRC and foreign news. The major concern in Hong Kong is of course policy in the PRC, so that China stories accounted for 46 percent of all death penalty coverage in the 12‐year period. In the seven years after 1998, the Post ran 252 mentions of capital punishment in the PRC, which is 53 percent of all death penalty coverage and more than eight times as many stories as there were about the death penalty in Hong Kong.

For the most part, the death penalty stories concerning Hong Kong were neither long nor about legislation. Individual crimes and defendants were the focus of many, and short letters to the editor from private citizens proposing or opposing a death penalty also appeared from time to time.

One long substantive analysis appeared in the Post on January 15, 1995, outlining the way a post‐1997 SAR might reintroduce capital punishment. In the words of Nihal Jayawickrama, a professor at Hong Kong University, “the constraints of British policy will not be in place after 1997 and if the Legislative Council wants [a death penalty] the SAR won't stop it. It will depend on the nature of public opinion at the time and the intentions of the SAR” (quoted in South China Morning Post, January 15, 1995). Putting aside whether Jayawickrama accurately described the SAR's intentions, the notion that reviving a death penalty was politically possible once the British left would seem like an open invitation to a campaign to bring back the executioner after this Chinese region is liberated from its British yoke. If ever there was to be a clean test of the influence of “Asian values” on capital punishment, the transition of Hong Kong from British to PRC control would seem a prime candidate. But a review of the Post from 1995 through 2006 provides no evidence of any sustained or organized effort to bring back capital punishment in Chinese Hong Kong.

The published record of pro–death penalty sentiment in the Post is strikingly sparse: one letter to the editor said that “criminals who commit atrocious crimes…should be executed” (January 18, 1995), and the father of an arson‐murder victim complained that the offender's “sentence is too light…We should bring back the death penalty” (January 22, 1995). But no political candidates or public figures responded to the Post's story of January 15, 1995, on the political possibility of resurrecting capital punishment. Indeed, 12 years of newspaper coverage produced only two persons of any public prominence in the governance of Hong Kong who went on record as supporting the death penalty.

The first was an official in Hong Kong's equivalent of a police union, the Hong Kong Police Inspectors' Association. In January 1995, the Post reported that “in August, Mr. Robert Chan Chuen‐Kung, the outspoken chairman of the Local Inspector's Association, was strongly rebuked by force management after he spoke up in favor of the death penalty being reintroduced after 1997” (p.375) (January 2, 1995). A second story reports the same “controversy” over his championing the possible reintroduction of the death penalty (February 27, 1995). Five months later, the Post reports, “The outspoken chairman of the local Inspector's Association…Senior Inspector Robert Chan Chuen‐Kung stepped down today.…Last year he angered officers by calling for revival of capital punishment” (July 19, 1995).

The second pro–death penalty voice was the only political figure in Hong Kong who is on record in the Post as a proponent of capital punishment: “David Chu Yu‐Lin, a member of the pro‐China Preliminary Working Committee,” who said, “[T]he local judiciary appears nowadays to have gone soft.…I am one of the chorus calling out for the return of the death penalty, at least on the statute books” (January 15, 1995). Yet the next time this death penalty “chorus” made the Post was more than two and a half years later, when Chu, now a legislator, suggested a “package of proposed police reforms that include the restoration of the death penalty for those who kill police officers” (October 6, 1997). In the same story, unnamed human rights activists branded the proposed reform as “crazy.” The idea then disappeared from view for the next nine years in the Post while the world's most active executioners took over the administration of the SAR. The few death penalty stories that do appear in Hong Kong in this period describe the vigilance and concern of human rights lawyers and the pledges of political candidates “not to restore” capital punishment (November 12 and December 2, 1996). There is, in short, no visible campaign to reintroduce the death penalty in Hong Kong's leading English‐language newspaper.

Table B.3 provides parallel information for the Singtao Daily, a Chinese‐language newspaper in Hong Kong that claims a daily circulation of approximately 180,000. The 12 years covered in this analysis (1996–2007) start one year later than that of the South China Morning Post (the later start was made necessary because the first year with computerized records is 1996). The pattern of coverage in the Singtao Daily is almost identical to that in the Post. The annual number of stories varies from a low of 87 to a high of 144, with no clear temporal trend, and most of the coverage concerns the PRC, with more stories focusing on it than on Hong Kong in every year. As with the Post, the peak year for Hong Kong–related stories is 1998, and the drop‐off after that is pronounced, with 41 stories in 1998 and fewer than eight stories in every subsequent year. For the nine years after 1998, there are a total of 21 Hong Kong death penalty stories, an average of about two per year and less than 5 percent of the 462 stories with a PRC focus. Hong Kong itself all but disappears from the death penalty news in the Singtao Daily, while about two death penalty stories each week are published focusing on the PRC or other countries.

Capital punishment has also disappeared as a local political question in Hong Kong newspapers, a vanishing act that is easy to explain. Human rights priorities in Hong Kong are self‐centered. What is important to Hong Kong is what is at issue or at risk between the city and the PRC government, and the death penalty is neither at issue nor at risk. Because Hong Kong has neither (p.376)

Table B.3 Death penalty–related articles and commentaries in Singtao Daily, 1996–2007, by geographic area that is the subject of comment

Mainland China

Hong Kong

Others

Total

1996

47

4

53

104

1997

45

7

51

103

1998

59

41

44

144

1999

52

3

42

97

2000

53

2

43

98

2001

55

2

45

102

2002

52

3

38

93

2003

40

3

54

97

2004

39

7

41

87

2005

56

0

57

113

2006

57

1

46

104

2007

58

0

42

100

Source: Analysis of Singtao Daily by Jiang Su, visiting scholar, Boalt Hall School of Law, University of California at Berkeley, March 2008.

the desire nor the power to become a force in regional human rights matters, current concern about capital punishment is low. But this does not mean Hong Kong would quietly comply with efforts of its mainland masters to restore executions. The resignation of Robert Chan Chuen‐Kung from the Local Police Inspectors' Association in 1995 suggests quite the opposite. The penal autonomy of Hong Kong is a bellwether of the long‐term ability of the city to survive in the PRC's embrace. Reintroduction of capital punishment by mainland fiat would risk a firestorm, and Beijing knows it.

The Dog That Didn't Bark

What of locally generated demand for capital punishment? The Beijing government would likely be pleased with a demonstration of the cultural demand for capital punishment that it says pervades its nation, yet there has been no grassroots movement to restore the death penalty in Hong Kong. Perhaps one reason a grassroots or indigenous movement to bring back execution has not been launched is that local political elites in Hong Kong would distrust the authenticity of the “grassroots” origins of any call for more capital punishment. Recall that the South China Morning Post was quick to identify the connection of Chu to “the pro‐China Preliminary Working Committee” when he became a one‐man “chorus” in favor of the death penalty. Distrust of PRC power is mixed with heavy suspicion that “local” pressure on issues like capital punishment is not really local.

(p.377) That Hong Kong has experienced no significant push back toward execution contradicts what any explanation that roots PRC executions in Chinese “cultural values” would expect. Hong Kong's reputation for public safety and effective law enforcement might be one reason why there has been little “law‐and‐order” outcry in the populace (Broadhurst 2005). Even so, the 15 years since the formal abolition of capital punishment in Hong Kong can be regarded as a controlled experiment testing the relative validity of the competing explanations of the high levels of execution in the PRC: “Asian values” versus the Chinese government as prime mover. Hong Kong represents a Chinese population and cultural setting that differs mainly in political structure and political tradition from mainland China. That the executioner is not needed in this environment is eloquent testimony to the power of a political explanation of death penalty policy, and is also an important demonstration of the value of regional comparisons as a method of research on capital punishment.

The Death Penalty in Macao

Macao can be distinguished from Hong Kong in numerous ways. For starters, its population of 430,000 at the time of its return to the Chinese mainland in 1999 was less than 7 percent of the population of Hong Kong at the time of its return two years earlier. The economy of this “Las Vegas of Asia” is also heavily dependent on a single industry—gambling—from which the local government obtains more than half its operating revenues (Godinho 2007). Gambling has also produced a more pronounced problem with organized crime and violence than Hong Kong has had to deal with (Broadhurst 2005). Indeed, on the eve of Macao's return to China in 1999, the city's “biggest complaint” concerned crime (McGivering 1999), and Edmund Ho, the SAR's first chief executive, promised that controlling it would be his government's top priority because residents were so concerned about law and order (Chinoy 1999). By many accounts, the people of Macao are also more patriotic toward the Chinese mainland than their Hong Kong counterparts are.8 At the turn of the 21st century, almost half of Macao's population had settled in the city only in the previous 15 years, which may help explain why most Macanese seem to lack the sense of separateness and superiority that many residents of Hong Kong seem to express toward the mainland. Unlike Hong Kong, Macao also has lacked an influential middle class and a vocal political opposition (McGivering 1999), (p.378) not to mention respect for the country—Portugal—that colonized the territory for 450 years. By the end of that occupation, many locals believed the Portuguese administration was corrupt and inefficient and blamed it for failing to prevent crime and being remote and irrelevant in a wide variety of policy arenas.9

But if Macao is not merely a smaller, more espresso‐loving version of Hong Kong, the death penalties in the two SARs have traversed broadly similar trajectories. Most notably, Macao's capital punishment policy has long been determined by outside forces. Portugal was the first European country to abolish the death penalty for murder (in 1867), and with the exception of executions for military crimes that occurred between 1916 and 1918, its last execution took place in 1849 (Hood 2002:23). Abolition for all crimes happened in 1976 as part of the political transition from Antonio Salazar's authoritarian regime (Hood 2002:250; Zimring 2003:23). A study of the relationship between colonial heritage and capital punishment has found that as of the year 2000, Portugal was the only former empire all of whose former colonies—five out of five—had completely abolished the death penalty. The prevalence of capital punishment in the former colonies of the Japanese, British, French, Spanish, Dutch, Belgian, Soviet, and American empires was considerably greater (Anckar 2004:87).

It is not clear exactly when Portuguese officials carried out their last execution in Macao, but in 1997 Amnesty International reported that none had taken place “for over a century.” In 1995, this long‐standing practice was enshrined into law when Macao's new Penal Code banned the death penalty and life imprisonment. The official press in the PRC reported that during the consultations on the Penal Code held earlier that year, “the Chinese side did not challenge the provision for abolishing the death penalty” and assured Macao representatives that they could retain an abolitionist policy as long as Macao deemed it necessary (quoted in Hands Off Cain 1999). In subsequent negotiations related to the handover, Portuguese officials requested and received assurances from the PRC that human rights would be respected and the death penalty would not be reintroduced. To drive the point home, Portugal's president issued a series of decrees in July 1999 that extended to Macao several international human rights standards. The decrees were suspended when Macao's legislative assembly complained that it had not been consulted, but they were reinstated a month later. In November 1999, (p.379) just one month before Macao's Portuguese period ended, Beijing informed the government of Portugal that it planned to pass 20 new laws as soon as Macao was handed back to China—and the death penalty was not among them. Since then, the death penalty has not been used in Macao territory, though jurisdictional ambiguities remain, much as they do in Hong Kong (Hood and Hoyle 2008:84).

Macao has experienced less controversy and debate about human rights issues than Hong Kong, both before and after their returns to the mainland. Britain and China rowed bitterly after Hong Kong's last British governor, Chris Patten, tried to increase the level of democracy at the 11th hour, and many Hong Kongers regarded him as their champion (McGivering 1999). Near the end of the British period, all the major government posts in Hong Kong were filled by ethnic Chinese except for those of attorney general and governor. In Macao, by contrast, all of the top administrative positions were held by Portuguese expatriates right up until the moment of transfer in 1999. The weaker localization of government and policy‐making seemed to foster passivity in the local population in Macao and probably stunted civil society there as well (Crowell and Law 1998a; Crowell and Law 1998b). These differences, and the differences in levels of crime and in Chinese patriotism mentioned earlier, might mean the PRC would have an easier time installing a death penalty in Macao than in Hong Kong, but we think both outcomes are unlikely. Through the process of rendition, China already uses capital punishment against some Macao offenders, much as it does for criminals from Hong Kong. More important, a PRC move to reintroduce the death penalty in Macao would almost certainly generate blowback reactions in Hong Kong and Taiwan that the CCP would be loath to see. For these reasons, Macao seems likely to remain Casino City without capital punishment for a long time to come. (p.380)

Notes:

(1.) A majority of countries that are now independent used to be colonies in one empire or another, and it seems “very likely indeed” that death penalty policy in former colonies has been shaped by the former mother country (Anckar 2004:75). A recent analysis of colonialism and capital punishment found that “countries without a colonial past tend to be markedly more restrictive toward the use of capital punishment than countries with a British or French colonial past,” but that was only at the global level (87). At the regional level there was no association, perhaps because almost all of the colonial powers were European (Anckar 2004:167).

(2.) From 1946 to 1955, the per capita execution rate in Hong Kong (3.6 per million) was about 12 times higher than that in England and Wales (0.3), while the Hong Kong rate in 1956–1964 (1.1) was about 18 times higher than the rate in England and Wales (0.06). Annual execution figures for England and Wales can be found at the Web site of Richard Clark (www.richard.clark32.btinternet.co.uk/hanged2.html).

(3.) England and Wales averaged 3.2 executions per year in the nine years before they abolished (1956–1964), compared with 14.6 executions per year in the nine years before that (1947–1955).

(4.) The sole exception seems to be Hong Kong governor Murray MacLehose's refusal to commute the death sentence of Tsoi Kwok‐cheung, a convicted murderer, in 1973. The governor's reluctance probably was influenced by the “steady build‐up of public pressure” on the local government to carry out an execution, based on the prevalent view that Chinese rather than Western sensibilities about punishment should be observed when dealing with convicted offenders (Gaylord and Galliher 1994:23). Governor MacLehose dispatched his chief justice and attorney general to London in order to stress Hong Kong's desire to see Tsoi executed, but in the end British policy prevailed. Tsoi was saved by a reprieve from the Queen and then, more decisively, by a grant of mercy from the British secretary of state (Gaylord and Galliher 1994:25).

(5.) The persistence of public support for capital punishment in Hong Kong long after executions ceased is consistent with the experiences of many nations, but not all (Zimring and Hawkins 1986:21). According to poll results released by the Uzbek Public Opinion Study Center in July 2008, just six months after a presidential ordinance had abolished the death penalty in Uzbekistan, 92.8 percent of citizens in that Central Asian nation said they supported the abolition. “Citizens are increasingly aware of the need to humanize the criminal justice system,” said one Uzbek analyst. “This [abolition] is a major precondition for the democratization of Uzbekistan” (“Over 90%” 2008). Similarly, in Turkey, where a moratorium on executions lasted from 1984 until the death penalty was formally abolished in 2002, “public opinion supported the abolition” (Lynch 2008:43; see also Hood and Hoyle 2008:48).

(6.) Despite the radically different execution policies in Hong Kong and Singapore, their homicide rates have tracked each other closely since at least the late 1970s. In a comparison of two cities that are similar in many social, cultural, and economic respects, the deterrent effects of Singapore's aggressive execution policy are invisible (Zimring, Johnson, and Fagan 2008).

(7.) The original source of the figure for 2001 is Hong Kong's Joint Committee for the Abolition of the Death Penalty (Hands Off Cain 2002).

(8.) Another contrast concerns Christianity. In Macao, the birthplace of Catholicism in China and East Asia, “the number of Roman Catholics and their proportion of Macao's population have been in steep decline,” which is a stark contrast to the flourishing of Catholic and other churches on the Chinese mainland and in Hong Kong (Aikman 2003; Greenlees 2007).

(9.) In 1974, Portugal's government even tried to return Macao to China, only to be rebuffed because “the time wasn't ripe.” Some observers believe Lisbon effectively surrendered control of Macao affairs after riots and a general strike gripped the enclave in 1966, at the beginning of China's Cultural Revolution. Thereafter, local politics were dominated by leftist labor unions and pro‐Beijing neighborhood associations, and the local media acquired “a pronounced pro‐Beijing bias” (Crowell and Law 1998a; Crowell and Law 1998b). To some, these developments made Macao a “semiliberated” part of China, despite the Portuguese presence.