A new report by Amnesty International has shown that the number of executions worldwide rose 15 percent in 2013, with China yet again placing as the world’s leading executioner followed by Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the US.
Amnesty was unable to fully estimate the true numbers of executions in China due to the lack of transparency with respect to China’s death penalty system and a lack of accurate data, as was the problem last year. Collected figures, however, showed that China last year executed more people than the rest of the world combined.
Washington Post reports:
The problem is that China treats the number of executions like a state secret, so observers are forced to use media reports and other means in an attempt to come up with accurate figures. Other groups have attempted to estimate the number of Chinese executions and have come to some extremely high numbers: The Dui Hua Foundation estimated that 4,000 were executed during 2011, for example.
Why is China’s rate of execution so high? Well, for one thing, it’s a huge country, and even at higher estimates, its per-capita rate of executions might be more comparable to small states that barely make a dent on the above chart. Another factor is the number of laws for which execution is a possible punishment in China – in 2011, it was reported to be 55, and included a number of economic crimes (for example, last year Zeng Chengjie, “China’s Madoff,” was executed in secret for fraud).
In response to the report, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei defended China’s use of the death penalty, saying: “The relevant organization always has biased opinions against China”.
“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.
The good news is that China might be trying to bring the number of executions down, as the number of crimes punishable by death decreased from last year.
[Image credit: Stephen Conn