China executes more people than rest of world combined, according to report

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

An Amnesty International report released Thursday says that China put more people to death last year than the rest of the world combined, and the group called on the Chinese government to make public the total number of executions in the country.

According to Amnesty International, China executed "thousands" of people in 2009, but the exact total is a state secret. Executions in the rest of the world totaled 714, of which 388 were in Iran. Death sentences totaled at least 2,001 in 2009. According to the group's 2008 report, China executed at least 1,718 people, more than three-quarters of the world total that year. While Chinese authorities claim the number of executions is decreasing, Amnesty challenged that claim, saying that "If this is true, why won't they tell the world how many people the state put to death?"

In a statement, the organization said that "The time is long overdue for China to fall into line with international law and standards on the death penalty and be open and transparent regarding its use of capital punishment." The organization said it was especially concerned about the executions of those in Tibet and Xinjiang after political violence, as well as people convicted of financial fraud, and a British man who was executed despite claims of mental illness.

Amnesty also criticized the legal system in China, which allows the death penalty to be used for nearly 70 offences, including non-violent ones. According to the report, many of the executions were based on evidence given during torture, and many defendants were given insufficient access to legal counsel.

The organization has long criticized the death penalty, saying that it is "cruel and degrading, and an affront to human dignity." Amnesty also claims that executions are frequently used for exclusively political purposes, and are used "disproportionately against the poor, minorities and members of racial, ethnic and religious communities."