A Catholic prison ministry leader, Cheng Tao, has called on the Taiwanese government to abolish the death penalty, as the justice minister indicated another round of executions may take place in a few weeks.
“Our government should replace the death penalty with lifetime imprisonment to show to the world that Taiwan cherishes human life,” said Cheng, who is president of the Association of Chinese Catholic Prison Ministry.
Taiwan's president Ma Ying-jeou siad recently that the government would reduce the number of executions before society reached a consensus on the controversial issue.
However, the Justice Minister Tsang Yung-fu said on 1 March that the 11-month break in executions may end as early as this month. The ministry would only execute a death row inmate only if he or she had tried all legal channels for an appeal, he said.
Cheng, who has been involved in prison ministry for 14 years, said the government should give death row inmates a chance of rehabilitation as many of them showed remorse for their wrongdoings during imprisonment.
“We should not use death penalty to determine the life and death of a person,” said Cheng.
Last year, there was heated debate in Taiwan when the former Justice Minister Wang Ching-feng stepped down after refusing to sign any execution orders. Her replacement, Tsang Yung-fu, approved the execution of four prisoners shortly after taking office. Five more criminals were later sentenced to death. Currently there are 45 death row inmates, 11 of whom are awaiting an appeal.
Abolition of the death penalty is a controversial issue in Taiwan. An opinion poll taken after the resignation of Ms Wang suggested that three-quarters of the Taiwanese public supported capital punishment
In a statement issued in response to last year’s debate, the Chinese Regional Bishops’ Conference said the death penalty is not a way of resolving the problem of crime.
They appealed to Taiwanese society to consider the abolition of the death penalty and to support its suspension, pending complete abolition, and to respect human dignity and the sacredness of life.