China increases use of lethal injections in executions

David Stanway in Beijing
Thursday January 3, 2008
Guardian Unlimited

China's executioners are to step up the use of lethal injections, a senior court official told state media today, in order to make executions "more humane" in the world's leading practitioner of capital punishment.
Jiang Xingchang, the vice-president of the country's supreme court, told China Daily that lethal injections would "eventually be used in all intermediate people's courts" instead of relying on firing squads.

The New York-based Human Rights Watch in China said there were 1,770 known executions in China in 2005, more than 80% of the worldwide total of 2,148 for that year, although a Chinese parliamentary delegate said the figure could be as high as 10,000.

Since 2005, although China has continued to execute more people than any other country, state media has been allowed to report on a number of serious miscarriages of justice.
While stressing that the death penalty remains a vital instrument in China's anti-crime efforts, the central government has been trying to clean up the system.

All death sentences must now be approved by the supreme court, and measures have also been introduced to improve appeal procedures. However, critics say that the persistent lack of transparency in China's judicial system is undermining the efforts. Human rights groups also claim that China has executed minors.

China has made heavy use of the death penalty in crackdown campaigns against separatist activities in the frontier regions of Tibet and Xinjiang, drug trafficking in the south west and rampant organised crime in its old industrial heartlands.

And it has sought to make the ultimate example of corrupt senior government officials.

Last year, the director of the state food and drug administration, Zheng Xiaoyu, was sentenced to death for "economic crimes", the most high-profile execution in a decade.