China to Expand Use of Lethal Injections for Death Sentences

A top Chinese judicial official says China is considering expanding the use of lethal injections for death sentences instead of execution by gunshot.

A report Thursday in the state-run China Daily newspaper quotes the vice president of the Supreme People's Court, Jiang Xinchang, as saying that lethal injections will eventually be used by all courts which carry out most of the country's executions.

Jiang said that lethal injections were more humane and notes that already half of the country's Intermediate People's Courts use injections to carry out executions. He stopped short, however, of giving a date for the change.

Human rights groups frequently criticize China's use of the death penalty and lack of transparency regarding its statistics.

Amnesty International China researcher Mark Allison said it is worrying that the Chinese government says the public is against abolishing the death penalty, but never releases the number of executions it has carried out.

Allison said Amnesty International is calling on the Chinese government to publicize those statistics before the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Rights groups estimate that China executes more people each year than the rest of the world combined.

Exactly how many is not known because the number is a state secret, but it is estimated that the figure is somewhere between five-thousand and 12-thousand people each year.

China has been slowly reforming its death penalty system following reports of several high-profile wrongful convictions.

Early last year, China began calling for a reduction in the number of its executions and said it would require that the Supreme People's Court review all death sentences.

Provincial courts previously held that authority.