Executions in China Said to Outpace World Despite Decline
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 on Tuesday.
File photo: A Chinese national flag flutters in front of a building.
Beijing: 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 on Tuesday.
The human rights group Dui Hua estimates about 2,000 executions took place in China last year, down from a 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.
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.
China has faced longstanding 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.
"China is trying to have it both ways, both getting credit and allaying international pressure over the death penalty in the county, while maintain and enforcing an elaborate system of secrecy," Bequelin said.
Oversight of death sentence cases was returned to China's highest court, the Supreme People's Court, in 2007. Since that time, the government has narrowed which crimes can bring capital punishment but still lists more than three dozen eligible offenses, including treason, separatism, spying, arson, murder, rape, robbery and human trafficking.
Ninety per cent of executions last year were for homicide cases, said legal scholar Hong Daode.
Hong and others faulted Amnesty for claiming in its report that verdicts on only 85 executions between 2014 and 2016 showed up on a supreme court website, out of at least 931 that the human rights group tallied through public news reports.
Among the cases omitted were the executions of foreigners for drug crimes and people accused of terrorism in China's in Xinjiang Uyghur autonomous region, the group said.
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