The Supreme People's Court has again vowed to strictly control the use of the death penalty, three days before local courts lose their absolute power to impose executions. All official media, including Xinhua and the China News Service, yesterday quoted a spokesman for the country's highest court as saying the body would abide by strict standards for the application of the death penalty. From Monday, all death sentences handed down by lower courts will have to be sent to the Supreme People's Court for review and final decision. Until then, provincial courts have the final say. The spokesman said the main point in instituting the Supreme Court's review was to ensure there was a uniform legal standard for the death penalty. He said the court would 'kill fewer and kill cautiously ... by setting precise standards for the application of the death penalty to make sure it is only used on criminals guilty of severe crimes'. The spokesman also said the court would try to ensure death penalty orders were based on accurate facts, sufficient evidence, appropriate punishment and legal precedent. The mainland legal community has been calling for the Supreme People's Court to regain its power to review death sentences for the past two decades because different provinces have set different legal standards for ordering executions. Chen Xingliang , deputy dean of Peking University's law school, said: 'The most obvious advantage of [the change] is to better regulate the standard for handing down a death penalty and to avoid wrong and unjust sentences.' Professor Chen said the change would move the country towards abolishing the death penalty, but this may not be realised for many years. Last month, Supreme People's Court president Xiao Yang said mainland courts would exercise greater caution when handing down death sentences, but would continue to apply 'heavy punishments' for serious crimes.