China executions increase in pace

(First Edition)

PEKING (Reuter) - China's pre-holiday execution blitz has spread nationwide, with one province alone trying some 2,900 people in a day and sentencing 360 to death or life imprisonment.

Today is China's National Day, and police across the country have executed death-row inmates before the holiday in a traditional clearing of the books. Incomplete statistics gathered from local newspapers this week indicate more than 100 convicts have been executed, many of them after 'mass sentencing rallies' before thousands in city stadiums.

In 119 towns and cities in the northern province of Hunan, convicts were marched before mass rallies on 25 September to hear their sentences, the official Hunan Daily said in an edition received in Peking yesterday. About 360 received the harshest possible punishment - death or life in prison - although officials were reluctant to disclose how many were actually executed.

Condemned criminals are usually killed shortly after sentencing with a bullet fired into the back of the head.