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Thursday, August 27, 1998 Published at 14:45 GMT 15:45 UK

World: Asia-Pacific

Mass execution in China

Strike hard campaign began two years ago

By Colin Blane in Beijing

Thirty convicted criminals have been shot by firing-squad in the biggest mass execution held so far in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen which borders Hong Kong.

Details of the mass execution were carried in the Shenzhen newspaper, Special Zone Daily, which said that at a single session of the intermediate court 39 criminals were sentenced to death, although in nine cases those sentences were suspended.

[ image: Spectators witness stadium execution]
Spectators witness stadium execution
The other 30 were led away immediately to face the firing-squad.

One of those shot had killed a woman with a knife, while three others had murdered truck drivers for their loads.

The offenders were sentenced as part of a national two-year long anti-crime campaign.

The newspaper commented that Shenzhen's "strike hard struggle" had reached a new high-point.

Rising crime in China has been linked to unemployment - a growing social problem since the closure of many loss-making state-run factories.

Criminal gangs from economically depressed parts of China have taken to moving to more prosperous cities in search of easy pickings.

According to the human rights organisation Amnesty International, China has executed more people in the 1990s than the rest of the world put together.

The group says it knows of more than 4,000 executions in China in 1996, although the real annual figure is kept secret.

China defends its use of the death penalty and says capital punishment is very limited.

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