It is no secret by now. China executes more people than the rest of the world put together (yes, even more than the Islamic world). In fact, Amnesty International says China carries out about 80 percent of the world’s total capital punishments, if not more (1,770 people in 2005). The recent UN vote for a moratorium on executions saw a fractious two-day debate between the anti-execution camp led by Italy and the pro-execution camp led by Singapore, which has the ignominious honour of having the highest number of executions per capita in the world (coming from there, we are ashamed). The result of the vote: 104 for, 54 against and 29 abstentions. Opponents of the moratorium included the United States, China and Iran (one rarely finds these three countries in the same camp).
It was perhaps the UN vote, coupled with New Jersey’s scrapping of the 1976 reinstatement of capital punishment, that set the Chinese internet abuzz with its own debate on the subject, as John Kennedy of Global Voices recaps. Perhaps in recognition of the mounting criticism both within and without China, the government has given power to the Supreme People’s Court to review all capital punishment cases and to have the final say on all death sentences. Just yesterday, it announced that from now on, it will expand the use of a kinder, gentler, less cruel way to die — lethal injections. Previously, most death sentences were administered by gunshot. For those of you that missed our slideshow on the last five hours of a death-row inmate, here it is again.
Update: Amnesty International has condemned China’s decision to replace execution by gunshot with execution by lethal injections, saying the real focus should be on abolishing the death penalty. SCMP has more.
AP: China to Switch to Lethal Injections
BBC: China to expand lethal injections
Reuters: China favors execution by lethal injection
China Daily: Lethal injection to be used more
Photo by Ironic Tonic