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Wednesday, 21 March, 2001, 16:25 GMT
China 'tops execution tables'
Drug traffickers being executed
Some prisoners are executed publicly
China has been accused by a human rights group of being the world's leading executioner, killing more people than the rest of the world combined in 1999.

Amnesty International said in its annual survey on Wednesday that China puts to death an average of 40 of its citizens every week.

Cheng Kejie, sentenced to death for corruption
Even top officials, such as Cheng Kejie, have not escaped the gallows
The London-based group said that the figures it compiled from the Chinese media represented only a fraction of the actual total.

In 1999, public reports cited 1,263 executions and 2,088 death sentences.

Amnesty said it was concerned about what it calls unfair trials and the use of torture to gain confessions.

It also slammed China's use of leg irons on condemned prisoners, the humiliation of convicts at mass sentencing rallies and the disregard given to mitigating evidence in some cases.

Political prisoners

Trial in China
Mitigating evidence has been overlooked, Amnesty says
Amnesty said the death penalty was being used on political prisoners - "on charges related to state security" - in the separatist-hit Muslim region of Xinjiang, where trials were often conducted in secret.

And it said courts were handing out more death sentences during the government's "Strike Hard" campaigns against corruption, drug trafficking and separatism.

There were also more executions around public holidays such as the Lunar New Year festival, and on 26 June - international anti-drug day.

"These peaks and the use of... 'Strike Hard' campaigns increase the possibility of miscarriages of justice and unequal and arbitrary sentencing," Amnesty said.

Ethnic Uighurs in Xinjiang have been executed for subversion
The Chinese authorities have insisted there are very vigorous standards for deciding capital cases.

The report comes ahead of expected strong criticism of China, particularly from the United States, at the United Nations annual human rights forum in Geneva.

From 1990 to the end of 1999, Amnesty recorded 27,599 death sentences in China and more than 18,194 executions.

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