August 29, 2015 / 1:55 PM / 2 years ago

China grants amnesty to mark anniversary of WW2 victory

Chinese President Xi Jinping is seen during a meeting with U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice (not pictured) during their meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, August 28, 2015. REUTERS/Jason lee

BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese President Xi Jinping granted an amnesty on Saturday to jailed war veterans and bedridden or disabled elderly prisoners to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War Two, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

Thousands of Chinese troops will march through central Beijing on Thursday to commemorate the 1945 victory over Japan. China will also roll out a host of high-tech weaponry, including ballistic missiles and fighter jets.

It was the eighth amnesty granted since the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, Xinhua said. China last granted an amnesty to almost 300 veterans in 1975.

Xinhua quoted Li Shishi, director of parliament’s legislative affairs committee, as saying the amnesty had “great political and legal significance” due to the war anniversary.

The amnesty was granted to thousands of prisoners who were not deemed a threat to society and sentenced before Jan. 1 this year, including criminals who fought against the Japanese and Chiang Kai-shek’s Kuomintang troops during the 1946-49 Chinese civil war, Xinhua said.

The amnesty also covered those aged over 75, disabled or unable to care for themselves, Xinhua said. The oldest was aged 95.

It was not immediately clear if the amnesty would include Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, 59, who was jailed for 11 years in 2009 on subversion charges for organizing a petition urging an end to one-party rule.

While Liu does not fit into the categories identified in the amnesty, leading U.S. senators have urged President Barack Obama to press Xi to release Liu during the Chinese president’s visit to Washington next month.

Xinhua said criminals who fought in unspecified wars after 1949 to safeguard national sovereignty, security and territorial integrity were also eligible with the exception of those found guilty of serious crimes such as corruption, terrorism and organized crime.

Those aged under 18 when they committed crimes and received prison sentences of less than three years were also eligible except those convicted of murder, rape, terrorism, kidnapping, arson, bombing and narcotics offences, Xinhua added.

Reporting by Benjamin Kang Lim; Editing by Alison Williams

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