China speeds up justice and doubles execution rate

China's anti-crime crackdown has led to a doubling in the number of reported executions. Punishment has in some cases been meted out so swiftly that defendants were shot within days of being arrested, and the type of crimes which have warranted the death penalty included VAT receipt theft, stealing a large haul of ballpoint pens and badminton raquets, and cattle rustling.

The figures for 1996 have been compiled by Amnesty International, which every year collates reports of death sentences and confirmed executions in the Chinese newspapers and other public sources. This represents only a proportion of the actual executions - the real figure being a state secret - but gives a reliable guide to trends in the Chinese judicial system.

For 1996, the human rights group recorded more than 6,100 death sentences and 4,367 confirmed executions. This compares with 3,110 and 2,190 respectively for 1995. Last year's gruesome tally produced the highest figures recorded by Amnesty's research, which has been published since the early 1980s. The only comparable year was 1983 when an earlier anti-crime campaign similarly led to a wave of mass executions.

The sharp rise last year was clearly due to the "Yanda" (Strike Hard) campaign launched against China's rising crime rate in April 1996. By May hardly a week was going by without reports of mass public sentencing rallies and mass executions somewhere in China. According to newspaper stories at the time about specific cities, Chinese courts seemed to be processing cases at such a speed that any possibility of a meaningful or fair trial had been abandoned. Last year the Chinese government was boasting to the international human rights community about improved safeguards for defendants in its judicial procedures.

According to Amnesty, the numbers of crimes which are punishable by death in China has spiralled over the last 10 years, particularly for non-violent crimes such as embezzlement, fraud and theft. On 25 June last year in Shanghai, Hou Zhijiang and Wei Xuemeng were executed for stealing ballpoint pens and badminton raquets valued at pounds 4,400.

The next day, Chen Zhong and two other men were executed in Sichuan for attempting to steal value added tax receipts from a tax office. Zhang Xizhong was executed in Sichuan on 13 May for stealing 14 cattle.

The speed at which trials and executions have been carried out have been taking place in a judicial system which Amnesty describes as having an "alarming potential for miscarriages of justice". In Jilin province, three people were arrested for stealing from a car on 21 May, sentenced to death on 27 May, and executed on 31 May. There is no meaningful appeals process.

The bulge in reported executions and death sentences lasted from May to September last year, according to Amnesty's figures. This included the anti-drugs crackdown in the run-up to Anti-Drugs day on 26 June, with 447 confirmed executions in 1996 for drug trafficking or possession.

While foreigners are kept away from execution grounds, most Chinese people see executions as an accepted part of crime control. The "Strike Hard" campaign was widely welcomed - though it failed to solve the worsening crime situation.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Ashdown Group: Editor-in-chief - Financial Services - City, London

£60000 - £70000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power