China enforcing 'secrecy system' to obscure scale of executions - Amnesty

The human rights charity says China executed more people last year than all other countries in the world combined

China enforcing 'secrecy system' to obscure scale of executions - Amnesty

A display board showing photos of criminals receiving their death sentences by Chinese's courts on display at the China Court Museum in Beijing. Picture by: Andy Wong/AP/Press Association Images

China executed more people in 2016 than all other countries in the world combined, according to Amnesty International.

The human rights charity suggests the full scale of capital punishment in China is unclear as authorities "enforce an elaborate secrecy system" to obscure the true number of executions.

However, the charity says they discovered public news reports of at least 931 people executed in China between 2014 and 2016 - which they describe as 'only a fraction' of the total.

Amnesty has described the country's use of the death penalty as 'grotesque' and 'horrifying'.

Colm O'Gorman of Amnesty Ireland observed: “The Chinese government uses partial disclosures and unverifiable assertions to claim progress in reducing the number of executions yet at the same time maintains near absolute secrecy. This is deliberately misleading.

"China is a complete outlier in the world community when it comes to the death penalty, out of step with international legal standards and in contravention with repeated UN requests to report how many people it executes."

Image: Amnesty International

The Amnesty report found that 1,032 people were executed outside China last year, and that four countries - Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Pakistan - were responsible for 87% of those executions.

The report highlights recently published data from Vietnam that revealed that 429 people were executed between August 2013 and June 2016 - a figure that puts the country behind only China and Iran in the number of executions.

There was an overall decrease in executions worldwide last year, due to fewer recorded cases of capital punishment in Iran (at least 567 executions, down 42% on 2015 figures) and Pakistan (at least 87 executions, down 73%).

Two countries - Benin and Nauru - abolished the death penalty last year.

In the US, meanwhile, there were 20 executions - the lowest level since 1991. However, with Arkansas planning to carry out eight executions in just 10 days this month, the charity warns the figure could rise this year.

Mr O'Gorman said: "[US] politicians should steer clear of the ugly ‘tough on crime’ rhetoric that helped drive a spike in executions in the 1980s and 1990s.

"The death penalty is not going to make anyone any safer. The five isolated states that carried out executions last year are behind the times," he added.