CHINA is to impose tougher penalties, including the death sentence, for ringleaders who smuggle illegal immigrants out of the country, official reports said yesterday. A set of draft supplementary regulations proposing more severe punishment for the illegal activities was yesterday tabled for approval at a meeting of the National People's Congress Standing Committee. Under the draft laws, units which 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 heavily punished, according to a Xinhua (NewChina News Agency) report. Immigration and border officials found to have been involved with unlawful activities will be severely dealt with, it added. Tabling the draft laws, Gu Angran, a vice-chairman of the NPC Standing Committee's Legislative Affairs Commission, told the meeting that smuggling in human cargoes 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. ''We must crack down,'' Mr Gu said. 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. Under the draft regulations, organisers of activities to smuggle people 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 to repeated offenders who have caused injuries or death to the smuggled people, and those whose cases ''were extremely serious''. 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.