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China: moratorium on the death penalty is urgent

China: A moratorium on the death penalty is urgently required

The Chinese government routinely abuses national laws and international standards in the course of executing thousands of people each year, says a new report by Amnesty International. The report Executed "according to law"? – the death penalty in China comes a week after a senior Chinese legislator suggested China executes 10,000 people a year. (View the full report online at )

"In spite of positive developments in criminal procedure law, in practice the Chinese criminal justice system is in no condition to offer fair trials, impartiality, or justice. It is unacceptable that thousands more people will be executed this year by a dysfunctional criminal justice system", said the organization.

The miscarriages of justice cited in the report are just the tip of the iceberg. Given the potential for executing the innocent revealed by this report, it is incumbent upon the Chinese government to impose a moratorium on executions as a matter of urgency.

"This would be a first step towards the total abolition of the death penalty that the Chinese government has signalled to foreign diplomats is its ultimate goal," Amnesty International said.

The organization believes that given the potential for miscarriages of justice revealed by the report, a moratorium is urgently required. Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases on the grounds that it is the ultimate cruel and inhumane treatment, and violates the right to life. The organization believes that execution in the absence of justice ranks among the ultimate failures of humanity.

Executed "according to law"? - the death penalty in China traces the ordeal that a person in China goes through from being suspected of committing a capital crime through to execution.

The report demonstrates the failures in China's criminal justice system by using cases researched by Amnesty International, and cases gathered from China's official media. These include:

- Chen Guoqing and three co-defendants accused of murder in 1996. They have now been re-tried and re-sentenced to death four times. They have so far successfully appealed three times, because the appeal court recognized that there was little valid evidence linking them to the crime, they had reliable alibis, and that their convictions were largely based upon confessions extorted through torture. They remain in prison awaiting a final verdict.

- Zhao Fenrong, a woman accused of murder in 1998 and sentenced to death at her trial and two subsequent re-trials, also on the basis of scant or fabricated evidence, and upon a confession extorted through torture. She is currently in prison on a suspended death sentence possibly awaiting a further appeal.

- Tenzin Deleg Rinpoche, a Tibetan Buddhist cleric who was given a suspended death sentence following a blatantly unfair trial and a summary appeal procedure which saw his co-defendant Lobsang Dhondup executed on the day the sentence was passed.

- Gong Shengliang, a Christian pastor who was subjected to a blatantly unfair trial and sentenced to death, only to have his sentence reduced to life on appeal. He remains in prison, and there are serious concerns for his health following allegations of repeated and sustained beatings in prison.

Executed "according to law"? - the death penalty in China includes specific recommendations to the government of the People's Republic of China for bringing its criminal justice system into line with international standards.

"China must implement the international treaties it is already party to - such as the Convention Against Torture - and it must do everything possible to ratify and implement the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) as a matter of urgency," said Amnesty International.


China applies the death sentence for the "most serious" crimes, which under Chinese law include corruption and numerous other non-violent crimes, despite an international standard which states the death penalty should be "a quite exceptional measure".

When detained on suspicion of committing a capital crime, no one has the absolute right to immediate legal counsel - it is usually only after a person has been interrogated by police that they can engage a lawyer. Even then, this right is often denied or interfered with in practice. However, it is often during the first interrogation that people are tortured and forced to 'confess' to the crime under investigation. Their 'confession' can then be used as evidence against them in court, and used towards sentencing them to death.

Additionally, contrary to international standards, there is no presumption of innocence in Chinese law. Political interference can intrude upon the judicial process at every stage of proceedings. China's notorious 'strike hard' campaigns put courts under extreme political pressure to pass speedily ever more and ever heavier sentences.

People's Republic of China: Executed "according to law"? The death penalty in China. Read the report at

People's Republic of China: Appeal Cases CHEN GUOQING, YANG SHILIANG, HE GUOQIANG, ZHU YANQIANG at

For more information on the death penalty in China please visit

View all documents on China at

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