China condemned as 'world's top executioner'

China's hardline under scrutiny

China condemned as 'world's top executioner'

Updated 14.54 Tue Apr 15 2008

Amnesty International hascondemned China as the "world's top executioner" in its annual survey of countries that carry out capital punishment.

The human rights organisation said China had executed at least 470 people in 2007 - but campaigners believe the true figure may be 8,000.

"I hope, as China takes its place on the global stage, that it will seriously look at its human rights record" - Amnesty researcher Piers Bannister

Amnesty said the total number of executions worldwide was at least 1,200, suggesting that China accounts for more than a third of the global count.

Noting that Beijing classifies the death penalty as a state secret, Amnesty commented that "as the world and Olympic guests are left guessing, only the Chinese authorities know exactly how many people have been killed with state authorisation."

The organisation said that with the Olympic Games taking place in Beijing this year, it was pushing for change on the part of the Chinese authorities.

"I hope, as China takes its place on the global stage, that it will seriously look at its human rights record, and that one of the things it will do is abolish the death penalty," Amnesty researcher Piers Bannister said.

The report estimated 374 people will be executed in China during the Olympic Games.

The Amnesty report said 88 per cent of all known executions take place in just five countries - China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the United States.

It said Iran carried out at least 377 executions, while the figure for the US was 42.

Amnesty called on all governments that allow the death penalty to lift what it called the "veil of secrecy" over the practice.

"We need to see that the borders of execution-free Europe and the Americas are pushed back into the Middle East and Asia until we see a world free of executions," Mr Bannister said.

Kenny Richey, from Edinburgh, who was finally cleared for release at the end of last year after spending more than 20 years protesting his innocence on death row in the US, said of the report: "These numbers are really chilling.

"Having actually been on death row I can guarantee that there's a human tragedy behind every one of these statistics.

"In my case, shoddy justice was to blame for my having to endure the living hell of two decades staring death in the face.

"Looking back I am incredibly grateful to the campaigners in Scotland and elsewhere who managed to get me off death row - the important thing now is to press for abolition of the death penalty in every country in the world."

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