06/16/2009, 00.00
CHINA
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Beijing’s new and improved execution method, lethal injection in lieu of bullet in the head

Lethal injection is considered more human and modern because “it reduces the criminals' fear and pain”. Officially 1,700 people were put to death last year, more than 70 per cent of the world’s total. Activists accuse prison authorities of using the bodies of executed prisoners for organ trafficking.
Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – By the end of this year China will start executing people by lethal injection rather than bullets. Officially this method is described as a new and more humane form of death penalty, raising China to the level of other modern nations.

In Beijing the authorities have built a facility next to a prison outside the city’s limits that houses most of the capital's death row inmates. It is here that lethal injections will be performed, the China Daily reported.

In the meantime would-be executioners are being trained on how to administer the injections, and medical staff is learning how to supervise the use of drugs, monitor executions and confirm deaths.

Hu Yunteng, head of the Supreme People's Court's research bureau, said that lethal injection (legalised in 1997) was a cleaner, safer and more convenient way of executing prisoners than the old-fashioned bullet through the head.

“It is considered more humane as it reduces the criminals' fear and pain compared with gunshot execution,” Mr Hu said.

Last year some 1,700 people were executed in mainland China. This represents 70 per cent of the total number of executions world-wide.

However, off-the-record Communist Party members have acknowledged that in past years up to 10,000 people have been executed.

In late 2006 the Supreme People's Court resumed the power to review death sentences. This has led to an apparent drop in the number of executions, but overall figures remain a “state secret”.

At the same time though, human rights activists have accused Chinese prison authorities of involvement in the trafficking of organs taken from executed prisoners as well as of carrying out executions “à la carte” according to organ market demands based on death row inmates’ physical traits.

For this reason some people suspect that execution by lethal injection was adopted in order to better preserve organs for sale.

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