Sociology

A look at Capital Punishment in China



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China performs more executions than any other country in the world. Moral views on  capital punishment aside, one could easily speculate that this is because China is also one of the planet’s most heavily-populated nations, but there is more to the story.

In 2010, Amnesty International reported that 23 countries employed the death penalty. During that year, 46 executions took place in the United States, which ranks fifth worldwide. In contrast, Iran, which ranks second and is considerably smaller, executed 252 known people and perhaps more. Thus, the size of a country becomes irrelevant in regard to executions. With that established, the exact numbers are not known due to China’s policy of secrecy, but it is estimated that some 5000 condemned criminals are put to death annually. For comparative purposes, this suggests that in China, the same number of people executed in the US over a period of one year will be executed every three days!

The most common method of execution in China involves a single gunshot to the back of the head at close range before a live audience in a stadium setting. However, lethal injection is gaining momentum, particularly in mobile vans. This saves time and money that would be required to construct injection chambers on prison property. It has also been suggested that executed criminals’ organs are removed and sold on the Black Market. The fact that lethal injection is less messy facilitates such organ trading.

There are two major reasons China makes frequent use of capital punishment. First of all, China has a shoddy court system. In 2008, a Washington Post probe found that the legal system over there is oftentimes closed and run by Communist Party committees. Moreover, a lack of due process of law exists which results in uneven application. Torture is often administered to obtain “confessions.”

A defendant’s very life expectancy becomes a figurative roll of the dice once he or she is put on trial. The Chinese don’t mess around with long, drawn-out legal battles and stays of execution, either. Justice is swift and complete. Unlike the US, where death-row inmates spend years before being executed, death sentences in China are often carried out in less than a year upon conviction.

Most disturbingly, until 2011 there were 68 listed offenses that were punishable by death in China. This has been scaled back to 55, and those over the age of 75 are now exempt from the death penalty as well. Some crimes subject to the death penalty include those of a violent nature such as murder, rape, and armed robbery. Treason and drug trafficking are also punishable by death. But the following are what really sets China apart from most of the world: Many white-collar crimes are also regarded as capital offenses, such as embezzlement tax fraud, and corruption.

For those who fancy ideas about engaging in any illegal activity, violent or not, China is decidedly not the place to be. Human rights and compassion are rarely given consideration, and even if one manages to escape Death Row, many long years of prison time await for crimes that would not warrant such long periods of incarceration in just about every other country in the world.



 

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ARTICLE SOURCES AND CITATIONS
  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrowhttp://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2011/09/capital-punishment-in-china/245520/
  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrowhttp://www.usatoday.com/news/world/2006-06-14-death-van_x.htm
  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrow http://pubrecord.org/world/9152/death-penalty-declines-china/