Tue, Mar 16, 2004 - Page 5 News List

Chinese legislator decries execution toll

AFP , BEIJING

China sentences to death and immediately executes around 10,000 convicted criminals every year, according to a delegate who sought to curb the practice at the just-closed National People's Congress (NPC) 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 NPC delegate from Chongqing.

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 and comes as the government has indicated a willingness to better restrict the grisly practice.

Chen,director of the law faculty at Southwestern Politics and Law University, said yesterday that his number of annual executions "was only an estimate" tabulated by a group of delegates and scholars and "not an accurate figure."

He expressed surprise that the story was published by the paper which is one of China's most prominent state-run newspapers.

While China is notorious for its liberal use of the death penalty, it maintains that the number of people executed each year is 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 said.

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