Cheng Tao, president of the Association of Chinese Catholic Prison Ministry, (right) counsels a prisoner
A veteran Catholic prison ministry leader has called on the Taiwan 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 Tao, president of the Association of Chinese Catholic Prison Ministry.
Taiwan president Ma Ying-jeou had said about a month ago that the government would reduce the number of executions before society reached a consensus on the controversial issue.
However, justice minister Tsang Yung-fu said March 1 that the 11-month break in executions may end as early as this month. In a cautious approach, the ministry would only execute a death row inmate only if he or she had tried all legal channels for an appeal, he said.
Involved in prison ministry for 14 years, Cheng said the government should give death row inmates a chance for renewal as many of them did repent for their wrongdoings during imprisonment.
It is also common to hear wrong judgments in court and thus “we should not use death penalty to determine the life and death of a person,” said the 71-year-old layman.
Abolition of the death penalty has been a controversial issue in Taiwan as many people still hold the idea of “an eye for an eye”.
Last year, it stirred heated debate in society when the former justice minister Wang Ching-feng stepped down for refusing to sign any execution orders. Shortly after Tsang took the place of Wang, he approved the execution of four inmates. The court later also sentenced five more criminals to death row. Currently there are 45 death row inmates, 11 of them still waiting for an appeal.
In a statement
issued in response to last year’s debate, the Chinese Regional Bishops’ Conference says the death penalty is absolutely not a way of resolving the problem of crime.
It appeals to Taiwan society to consider the abolition of the death penalty and to support suspending carrying out the death penalty pending its complete abolition in order to respect human dignity and the sacredness of life.