Amnesty: China In 'Execution Frenzy'

Execution gurney in lethal injection death chamber at Holman Correctional Facility, Atmore, Alabama. 2002/10/7
AP
China executed more people in the last three months than the rest of the world did in the past three years — 1,781 people put to death in a government campaign against crime, Amnesty International said Friday.

The London-based rights group said China has put people to death not just for violent crimes, but also for bribery, embezzlement, fraud, pimping, stealing gasoline, selling harmful foods and drug offenses.

"The campaign is nothing short of an execution frenzy, a huge waste of human life," Amnesty said.

The Chinese government did not comment on the Amnesty report. But China justifies the crackdown and harsh sentencing as necessary to ensure "social stability," a catchall phrase describing the Communist Party's unrivaled authority and control over society.

Amnesty said its figures of at least 1,781 executions and 2,960 death sentences — since the anti-crime campaign called Strike Hard was launched in April — were tallied from publicly available reports.

In contrast, Amnesty counted 1,751 executions in the rest of the world over the past three years. But only a fraction of death sentences and executions in China are publicly reported and the actual number of people put to death is far higher, the group said.

Amnesty, which opposes use of the death penalty, released its report one week before the International Olympic Committee votes on whether Beijing will host the 2008 Summer Olympics, or one of four other cities, including Paris and Toronto.

Critics say Chinese human rights abuses make Beijing unfit to hold the games. Beijing officials say an Olympics would promote human rights in China. But they also argue that political considerations should not be used to judge Beijing's Olympic bid.

Amnesty expressed fears that in their rush to produce results for the anti-crime drive, called "Strike Hard," authorities risk executing innocent people. Police and prosecutors have been urged to cut corners to secure quick arrests and trials, it said.

In southern Hunan province, police reported solving 3,000 cases in two days in April, Amnesty said. In southwestern Sichuan province, police said they apprehended 19,446 people in six days, it said.

"The potential for miscarriages of justice, arbitrary sentencing and the execution of innocent people is immense," the group said.

Most executions take place after sentencing rallies in front of massive crowds in sports stadiums and public squares, it said.

Originally targeted at organized and violent crime, Chinese authorities have greatly expanded the scope of the Strike Hard campaign, Amnesty said.

In Xinjiang, a restive western region of China where militant Muslims are fighting Chinese rule, authorities have executed people accused of separatism, the group said.

Authorities in the prosperous southern province of Guangdong, next to Hong Kong, and other regions have executed people for fraud, forging currency and "disrupting the stock market" in an effort o curb economic crimes before China joins the World Trade Organization, Amnesty said.

China expects to join the rule-making body for world trade by early next year at the latest.

By JOHN LEICESTER
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