By Ryohei Kurita
As a Japanese person, the word “death penalty” possessed some familiarity as it occasionally popped up on television and even in some family conversations. However, it was only until I watched a video on inmate rehabilitation that I began to question the necessity of death penalties in human societies.
And now, it seems that I have a clear answer.
Death penalty seeks to lower the crime rates of societies. Due to the punishment’s fearful nature, it seems obvious that death penalty would lead to their deterrence. However, it is undeniable that there are many other countries in the world that has taken the abolitionist approach and at the same time, have maintained very low crime rates.
Hong Kong is one of those countries.
According to the UNODC statistics for intentional homicide rate per 100,000 people, Hong Kong is a country that has a comparable figure (0.30) to Japan (0.31) and Singapore (0.25), even though, the country had last used death penalty as a punishment in 1966 and officially abolished the method since 1993.
So, how has Hong Kong kept its crime rates so low with a population greater than Singapore?
According to Bernard Chan, a Hong Kong politician and businessman, the country strives to keeps social dislocation, inequality and poverty at a low through its robust economy, strict laws, and policies – and it really shows.
The unemployment rate for Hong Kong is 2.5%, which places 25th out of the 217 registered countries in the CIA World Factbook, while the distribution of family income is 9th in the world. Furthermore, the distribution and manufacturing of drugs lead convicts to life imprisonment.
Ergo, the boring (but important) data proves my point: the need for capital punishment only presents itself when the state fails to prevent crimes through inadequate social welfare and employment policies.
Judicially, not only is capital punishment so blemished that even experienced judges have gone against the sanction – but it is also already losing its relevance in the United States.
As of April 2014, 18 US states have already abolished capital punishment and according to a New York Times opinion paper by Richard Dieter, the punishment is rarely being applied recently due to this national trend. Thus, even in Texas and Florida where executions are being carried out the most, “death sentences have declined by 75% since […] 1996.” This means that the punishment’s alleged effects for deterrence and retribution had been proved to be generally false due to its rarity.
Death sentence is not necessary. After looking at the case of Hong Kong and some critical judicial vulnerabilities, such a conclusion could be made.
So, let me ask you:
Is death penalty really necessary?
- Thompson, Andrew S. “Beyond Expression: Amnesty International’s Decision to Oppose Capital Punishment, 1973.” Journal of Human Rights, vol. 7, no. 4, Oct. 2008, pp. 327-340. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1080/14754830802476852.
- “UNODC Statistics Online.” UNODC Statistics Online, UNODC, data.unodc.org/.
- Acker, James. “‘The Time … Has Surely Arrived’: Justice Stevens and the Death Penalty.” Contemporary Justice Review, vol. 11, no. 3, Sept. 2008, pp. 287-289. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1080/10282580802295625.
- Chan, Bernard. “Falling Crime Rate a Hong Kong Success to Celebrate.” South China Morning Post, South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd., 27 Sept. 2016,
- “The World Factbook: HONG KONG.” Central Intelligence Agency, Central Intelligence Agency, 22 Feb. 2018, www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/hk.html.
- “The World Factbook: SINGAPORE.” Central Intelligence Agency, Central Intelligence Agency, 22 Feb. 2018, www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/sn.html.
- Dieter, Richard. “Use of the Death Penalty Is Rare and Decreasing.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 6 Apr. 2014, www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2014/04/06/what-it-means-if-the-death-penalty-is-dying/use-of-the-death-penalty-is-rare-and-decreasing.