CHINA is to impose tougher penalties, including the death sentence, for ringleaders who smuggle illegal immigrants to other countries, official reports said yesterday. A set of draft supplementary regulations proposing more severe punishment against the illegal activities was yesterday tabled for approval at a meeting of the National People's Congress Standing Committee. Under the draft laws, units who have masterminded such illegal activities under the guise of ''export of labourers or trade exchange'' and are involved in the production and trading of fake passports will be severely punished, according to a Xinhua (the New China News Agency) report. Immigration and border officials found to have been involved with the unlawful activities will be heavily punished, it added. Tabling the draft laws, Gu Angran, a vice-chairman of the NPC Standing Committee's Legislative Affairs Commission, told the meeting smuggling in human cargo along the southeastern coast of the country had become serious in recent years. ''Such activities have damaged the order and management of the border, brought about serious problems to social order, jeopardised the international reputation of China and endangered the legitimate rights and benefits of overseas Chinese in those countries involved,'' he said in the Xinhua report. Boatloads of Chinese asylum-seekers to countries such as the United States, Southeast Asian countries, as well as Taiwan, have caused embarrassment to the communist regime. Official media, however, have blasted a small group of unlawful elements on the mainland who collaborated with people in overseas countries for the rapid rise of illegal emigration. Under the draft regulations, organisers of activities to smuggle people across the border will be subject to two to seven years in jail, plus fines. However, a punishment of seven years to life imprisonment will be given to those who are the ''main culprits'' in the smuggling syndicates, and repeated offenders who have caused injuries or death to the smuggled people. At present, the maximum penalty is five years. The draft laws also stipulate that smuggling organisers who have committed crimes such as murder, assault or rape on illegal immigrants or caused injuries or death to law enforcement officers will be subject to punishment in accordance with the criminal laws. Mr Gu said that could mean the death sentence for those found guilty. Apart from tougher laws against smuggling of illegal immigrants, 10 other draft laws will be tabled for approval at the current NPC meeting. These cover the protection of Taiwanese investments in the mainland, company law and budget law. Under the draft laws on Taiwanese investment, it has been stated that such investment should be seen as a ''special domestic investment''. This was to distinguish it from other foreign investments while upholding the principle of opposing any advocacy of ''two Chinas'' or ''one country, two regions,'' Xinhua said in another report.