China plans to pardon some of its prisoners as part of celebrations for the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic. The National People’s Congress Standing Committee, chaired by Li Zhanshu, reviewed a proposal to grant prisoners amnesty later this year when China marked the anniversary, state news agency Xinhua reported on Wednesday, without specifying which inmates would be affected. If passed, the amnesty would be the second during Xi Jinping’s presidency and the ninth since 1949. The first seven were granted during late chairman Mao Zedong’s tenure, with the initial amnesty issued in 1959 on the 10th anniversary of the republic. Observers said the pardons would carry either symbolic meaning or be based on a specific criterion such as age. “Although the amnesty is there as [an act of] goodwill to society, there is still a limit on how flexible the policy can be – the boundaries will not be too wide,” Wuhan University law professor Qin Qianhong said. Around 31,000 prisoners were released in 2015 when pardons were granted to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of the war with Japan. At the time, prisoners had to fall into at least one of four categories to qualify: be a World War II or Chinese civil war veteran; be aged 75 or have a physical disability; have committed their crime as a minor and received a maximum custodial sentence of three years; or have taken part in a war to safeguard national sovereignty, security and territorial integrity since the start of party rule. The prisoners also had to be classified as “no threat to society”, excluding criminals convicted of violent crimes such as rape and terrorism. Those found guilty of corruption in Xi’s ongoing anti-graft campaign were also ineligible. Honey, I’m home! 1,300 Chinese prisoners granted 5 days’ freedom over Lunar New Year holiday Qin said he expected a similar number of prisoners to be released this time and the conditions for release to be much the same. “For example, using age as a cut-off point would make the policy less controversial and raise fewer comparisons about why some people were released and some not,” he said. Zhang Lifan, a Beijing-based political commentator, agreed that releasing prisoners based on age would cause the party “much less trouble”. But he said he expected Beijing to be more generous about the number of people freed this time. “The leadership will most likely release more prisoners than last time because the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic will be a more important event for the party,” Zhang said. The analysts also agreed that inmates convicted of corruption would not be included in the amnesty. “[Beijing] will not let there be such a precedent. It would only cause more confusion in society about the message the government was trying to send,” Qin said.