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China leading the way in global executions: Amnesty
Tue, Apr 15, 2008
AFP

LONDON - AT least 1,200 people were executed globally last year with China leading the way amongst the world's most prolific users of the death penalty, Amnesty International said in a report published on Tuesday.

The London-based human rights group warned, however, that those figures were only minimum estimates, and cautioned that the true extent of the use of capital punishment could not be known because in many countries, state executions were shrouded in official secrecy.

'The secretive use of the death penalty must stop: the veil of secrecy surrounding the death penalty must be lifted,' Amnesty said in a statement.

'Many governments claim that executions take place with public support.

People therefore have a right to know what is being done in their name.' Amnesty said that at least 1,252 people had been executed in 24 countries around the world in 2007, 88 per cent of which took place in China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the United States.

'These were only minimum figures; the true figures were certainly higher,' its report read.

Of the countries using the death penalty, China led the way with at least 470 executions, followed by Iran with more than 317, Saudi Arabia with a minimum of 143, and Pakistan with at least 135, according to Amnesty.

It challenged Beijing in particular to 'end its secretive use of the death penalty and provide detailed information about the use of capital punishment' as China prepares to host the Olympic Games in August.

'In a country as vast as China with tight government controls on information and the media only the authorities know the reality behind the use of the death penalty,' the report read.

Nearly 70 crimes can carry the death penalty in China including tax fraud, stealing VAT receipts, damaging electric power facilities, selling counterfeit medicine, embezzlement, accepting bribes and drug offences, said Amnesty.

In a report earlier this month, Amnesty warned that China's human rights record was getting worse as Beijing bids to present a united front by cracking down on dissent.

China's hopes of winning international prestige by sending the Olympic torch through 135 cities on five continents ahead of the Games have already been severely dented.

The early stages in London and Paris were overshadowed by demonstrations against Beijing's repression of protests in Tibet, and the San Francisco leg was also drastically curtailed and seen by relatively few people. -- AFP

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