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Last Updated: Wednesday, 5 September 2007, 09:17 GMT 10:17 UK
China executions 'at 10-year low'
A group of members from various committees for the Abolition of the Death Penalty carry placards, featuring Hong Kong drug offenders who had been executed in mainland China, July 14, 2005.
China has the highest death penalty rate in the world
The Chinese authorities are expecting fewer executions this year than at any time in the past decade, according to state media.

The reduction is due to a new rule which means the country's top court must review every death sentence.

China does not release figures on the number of people it executes each year.

But officials with the Supreme People's Court (SPC), the nation's top judicial body, told the China Daily newspaper that numbers had fallen significantly.

"After the SPC took responsibility, death penalty cases have been treated more even-handedly," said court Vice-President Jiang Xingchang.

"Applications for capital punishment have become stricter, trial procedures are fairer and more streamlined."

He added that death sentences across the country in the first half of this year "clearly continued" to decrease.

Wrongful convictions

China is believed to carry out more executions than any other country.

CHINA'S DEATH PENALTY
China is believed to execute more people than rest of the world combined
Non-violent crimes such as tax fraud and embezzlement carry death penalty
Other crimes include murder, rape, robbery and drug offences
China does not publish official figures on executions
Many cases are based on confessions and trials often take less than a day, observers say

There were repeated claims of miscarriages of justice after lower courts were given the right to approve the death sentence in the 1980s.

But a change in the law came into effect on 1 January 2007, and meant that any death sentence handed out by a lower court must be given final approval by the SPC.

China's official state news agency, Xinhua, said at the time that it was one of the most important reforms of capital punishment in more than two decades.

Capital punishment has a long history in China.

In 2005, an estimated 1,770 executions were carried out and nearly 4,000 people were sentenced to death, human rights group Amnesty International says.

But recent cases of wrongful convictions had received widespread publicity both at home and abroad, putting the Chinese authorities under pressure over the issue.




SEE ALSO
China death penalty verdicts drop
08 Jun 07 |  Asia-Pacific
China tightens death penalty law
31 Oct 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Death penalty 'at record levels'
04 Apr 05 |  Americas
China revises death penalty law
29 Nov 04 |  Asia-Pacific
Timeline: China
18 Aug 06 |  Country profiles
Country profile: China
24 Aug 06 |  Country profiles

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