This paper seeks to examine why some countries have abolished the death penalty while others choose to keep it, given their popular opinions overwhelmingly favoring this tool to pursue justice. Taking Taiwan and Singapore as cases, this study demonstrates different approaches toward this controversial issue. In contrast to Singapore’s self-confidence on exercising its sovereignty, Taiwan has been isolated from international society and thus has stronger incentives to use this issue as a means to attract attention and acknowledgement. Since bluntly abolishing the death penalty might encounter strong political opposition, the Taiwanese government has pursued this goal using a silent approach, i.e. by such administrative means as stopping approval of executions, rather than going through formal, symbolic legislation. By doing so the politicians and ruling party also benefit from gaining a reputation for good human rights records without triggering heated debates on this issue.