Fri | Sep 22, 2017

Executions in China said to outpace world despite decline

Published:Wednesday | April 12, 2017 | 4:00 AM
In this Monday, April 10, 2017 photo, Amnesty International East Asia Director Nicholas Bequelin, left, and Deputy Director of Global Issues James Lynch hold the copies of reports on the death penalty during a press conference in Hong Kong.(AP)

BEIJING (AP):

China's use of the death penalty remains shrouded in secrecy and still outpaces the rest of the world combined, even after the nation's execution rate fell sharply over the past decade, human rights activists said yesterday.

Amnesty International reported 1,032 state-sponsored executions worldwide in 2016, excluding China, where the true number is unknown because the government considers it a state secret. The group said it believes China

executed thousands, but it didn't offer a more precise estimate because of a lack of accurate information.

The human rights group Dui Hua estimates about 2,000 executions took place in China last year, down from 6,500 a decade ago, said the group's executive director, John Kamm. The tally was based on research into lower-level court cases and contacts with government officials and Chinese and Western legal scholars, Kamm said.

Amnesty said its figure for worldwide executions excluding China represents a 37 per cent drop from 2015. The United States recorded 20 executions, its fewest in 25 years, in part because of court rulings and shortages

of chemicals used in lethal

injections.

Yet as other countries shift away from capital punishment, China increasingly is seen as an outlier, said Amnesty International East Asia Director Nicholas Bequelin.

Government officials did not immediately comment on Amnesty's report. But China's Chief Justice Zhou Qiang told the national legislature last month that over the past decade executions were limited to "an extremely small number of criminals for extremely serious offences".

China has faced long-standing pressure from the international community to curb its use of the death penalty, which reached a frenzy in 1983 with 24,000 executions after provincial courts were given powers to mete out capital punishment, according to Dui Hua.

The nation also has faced criticism for harvesting organs from executed inmates, including for sale to patients from overseas. China banned the practice in

2015 but Bequelin said it's impossible to know whether organ harvesting for profit has ceased because the legal system operates within a "black box" with little transparency.