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China executes 10,000 people a year: NPC delegate
BEIJING, (AFP) - China sentences to death and immediately executes around 10,000 convicted criminals every year, according to a delegate who was seeking to curb the practice at China's just closed parliamentary session.
"Every year China has nearly 10,000 cases of the death penalty that result in immediate execution. This is about five times more than all the other death penalty cases from other nations combined," said Chen Zhonglin, a National People's Congress (NPC) delegate from Chongqing municipality.
Chen's statement, in a weekend edition of the China Youth Daily, is believed to be the first time that such a number has appeared in the state-controlled press.
If correct, the numbers put to death are far higher than the estimated annual number of executions reported by human rights groups.
London-based Amnesty International counted 1,060 reported executions in the state press in China last year, while Hands Off Cain, an international group opposed to the death penalty, estimated that more than 3,000 people were executed in China in 2002.
While China is notorious for its liberal use of the death penalty, it has held the number of people executed each year as a closely guarded state secret.
"We have never published such a figure so we do not know where Chen Zhonglin got this number," a spokesman at China's Supreme People's Court told AFP Monday.
"We cannot comment on this figure, nor can we confirm it."
In a proposal signed by Chen and 40 other delegates to the NPC, the government was urged to review all death sentences at the Supreme People's Court, China's highest court, instead of allowing provincial high courts to issue the execution order.
"The power of final verification and approval is very much tied up in the fate of some 10,000 people executed every year in China and should be a deep concern for everyone," said Chen, who also serves as the president of the law school at Southwestern University of Politics and Law.
The delegates expressed their concern that the government was acting illegally by not verifying and approving all capital punishment verdicts at the highest level as stipulated by law, the China Youth Daily said.
"This violates the 1996 'Criminal Procedural Law' and the 1997 'Criminal Law'," Chen said.
Yi Yanyong, a criminal law professor at Tsinghua University's School of Law, said the number of executions in China cited by Chen could be accurate as he would have special powers of investigation as an NPC delegate.
"These NPC delegates do have some special powers so if he asked the right official then there is a possibility that this number is accurate," Yi told AFP.
"However, if he went around from court to court asking lower level officials how many people they executed, like a lot of scholars have tried to do, then it would be very difficult to come up with an accurate figure."
There was also a possibilty that the figure used by Chen was his own estimate and was being used to bring more attention to the issue, Yi said.