No word on death sentence numbers
Shi Jiangtao, Josephine Ma
Beijing has vowed to tighten control of the use of the death penalty in the face of domestic and international criticism, but has remained silent on capital punishment figures.
Xiao Yang , president of the Supreme People's Court, said court officials, especially at local level, must strictly adhere to the top court's calls to impose the sentence with greater caution.
'[We must] ensure the death penalty will be applied only to an extremely small number of criminals whose crimes are extremely serious and damaging to society, where the evidence is sufficient and who should be executed according to the law,' Mr Xiao said.
He said the Supreme People's Court would strengthen its guidance of local courts, which lost the power of final review in January.
In all, 153,724 people nationwide were sentenced to at least five years in prison last year, with an unspecified number given life sentences or the death penalty. The figure in 2001 was 131,869.
Zhao Long , vice-chairman of the Jiangsu People's Congress, said he had hoped to see separate death penalty figures.