Page last updated at 10:00 GMT, Friday, 12 March 2010

Taiwan justice minister resigns over death penalty

Wang Ching-Feng faces reports on 12 March 2010
Ms Wang said she would not authorise any executions

Taiwan's justice minister has resigned after failing to win support for her opposition to the death penalty.

Wang Ching-feng had said she would not give the go-ahead for any executions.

She added she would gladly die instead of any of the 44 inmates on death row, if only they got a chance to rehabilitate themselves.

Ms Wang's comments were criticised by President Ma Ying-jeou, by her own Kuomintang party and by victims of violent crime.

An opinion poll compiled after her remarks suggested three-quarters of the Taiwanese public supported capital punishment.

Unpopular position

Taiwan has practised a four-year de facto moratorium on executions.

But efforts to convert that into a formal end to any capital punishment were too challenging, as the justice minister discovered.

"I would rather step down than sign any death warrant," she said.

"If these convicts can have an opportunity to rehabilitate themselves, I would be very happy to be executed or even go to hell in their stead."

Her statement sparked passionate criticism, and a presidential spokesman said death sentences had to be "carried out according to the law'.

"Any stay of execution has to have compelling legal reasons to be granted," spokesman Lo Chih-chiang said.

Taiwanese actress Pai Ping-ping, whose daughter was murdered by kidnappers in 1997, was also upset.

"Ms Wang has deeply hurt Taiwanese people's feelings. She is rubbing salt into our wounds by promoting her own beliefs," the Associated Press quoted the actress as saying.

The last executions in Taiwan were of two people in 2005. A total of 49 people died between 2000 and 2005.

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