China tops list of world executioners
HONG KONG, China -- China's so-called "Strike Hard" campaign against crime has contributed to a dramatic increase in worldwide executions, with the figure for 2001 more than twice that of the previous year, human rights group Amnesty International says.
Releasing its statistics for last year, Amnesty reported Tuesday that over 3,048 people were executed in 31 countries, with China topping the list.
Between April and July 2001 at least 1,781 people were executed in China -- more than the total number of people executed in the rest of the world in the previous three years.
China has a history of "Strike Hard" campaigns. It has held three crackdowns, the first in 1983.
In its last campaign during 1996, 4,469 people were executed while 6,235 received death sentences, Catherine Baber, China researcher for Amnesty in Hong Kong, told CNN.
Since 1990, China has executed some 20,000 people.
Official totals are not released by the Chinese government so human rights groups usually obtain their figures based on a tally of reports in Chinese media.
Amnesty also stressed the difficulty in getting accurate figures.
"It is impossible to give a complete total because many countries deliberately keep the true numbers of those executed secret, belying the supposed deterrent value of the death penalty," the human rights organization said.
In its report Amnesty called on the United Nations Commission on Human Rights to take strong action against the death penalty at its annual session, currently in progress in Geneva.
"The Commission on Human Rights ... will hopefully soon pass another strong resolution reiterating its call for an immediate worldwide moratorium on executions" the report said.
"The UN should take the lead and take firm and positive measures to protect those facing the death penalty," it said.
Many of those condemned to death in China could have been tortured to extract confessions, Amnesty claims.
Prisoners are sentenced in front of crowds reportedly as large as two million people, before being paraded through the streets to firing squads in nearby fields or courtyards, according to Chinese media reports.
The most common form of execution in China is a shot to the back of the head.
However, earlier this year the government announced that it was looking to expand use of lethal injection as a more "humane" method.
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