Chinese police officers rehearsing execution procedure
Despite being criticised as the world's top executioner by Amnesty, China has defended using the death penalty as a deterrent.
China has defended the death penalty as a traditional deterrent, after a report said its annual executions has again far exceeded the rest of the world's combined.
Beijing judicially put to death thousands of people in 2013 compared to a total of 778 elsewhere, the campaign group Amnesty International said on Thursday in its annual report. It did not give a specific figure for China as Beijing considers the statistic a state secret and does not release it.
But foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei dismissed the study and highlighted policies to curb capital punishment.
"The relevant organisation always has biased opinions against China," he said at a regular press briefing.
"Whether or not a country retains the death penalty is mainly based on the traditional culture and specific national conditions.
"It meets the aspirations of the Chinese public and will also help crack down on and prevent severe criminal activities," he said, adding that the practice also followed the country's "legal and cultural traditions".
Beijing was taking steps to "implement the policy of strictly controlling and prudently using death penalty", Hong said.
China has cut back on executions since ramping them up in the 1980s and 90s as a way to prevent crime amid the social upheavals that came with drastic economic reform.
A key reform in 2007 required the Supreme Court to review all death sentences.
The number of crimes eligible for capital punishment was cut from 68 to 55 in 2011, and in November Beijing pledged further cuts, without providing details.
Human Rights Watch in January estimated Chinese executions at "less than 4,000 in recent years", down from 10,000 annually a decade earlier.
The China-focused rights group Dui Hua put the total around 3,000 in 2012, down from 12,000 in 2002.
Source: SBS news, March 28, 2014
28 Hongkongers executed on mainland in just over a decade, says Amnesty
Human rights group says fate of 19 others sentenced to death is unknown
28 Hongkongers have been executed on the mainland since 2003 while the status of 19 others who were also sentenced to death remains unknown, Amnesty International Hong Kong said today.
The human rights group, which has long campaigned for a worldwide abolishment of the death sentence, gathered its information from local and mainland media reports during the period. The group also said another 28 Hongkongers were given a suspended death sentence.
Most of the Hongkongers who were sentenced to death on the mainland were found guilty of drug trafficking, murder, smuggling or tax evasion, Amnesty said.
Another 5 Hongkongers were sentenced to death in Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam.
Because of the Chinese government's low transparency and the lack of credible figures, it was hard to say how much the numbers reflect the actual situation on the mainland, said the group's Hong Kong director Mabel Au Mei-po at a press conference today.
She said the mainland was moving slowly towards the eventual abolishment of the death penalty, which was indicated by the removal of 13 offences from the total 68 punishable by death in the areas of smuggling of certain items or financial crimes in 2011.
The group urged those whose family members were sentenced to death in the mainland or overseas to seek help. The group's involvement in the past had proved positive, Au said, citing an example of a Hongkonger, sentenced to death in Malaysia, who was granted access to a doctor and meeting with Chinese consulate staff after Amnesty's intervention.
"Don't expect mercy will be shown if you [families of death row inmates] keep silent as what we saw in the past was the exact opposite," said Father Franco Mella, a spokesman for the group's joint committee for the abolition of the death penalty.
Source: South China Morning Post, March 28, 2014

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