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
Homeless Veterans charity auction: Cook with Angela Hartnett and Neil Borthwick at Merchants Tavern
charity appeal
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly finalists Simon Webbe, Caroline Flack, Mark Wright and Frankie Bridge
tvLive: Simon Webbe, Caroline Flack, Mark Wright and Frankie Bridgeface-off in the final
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
The Tesco Hudl2: An exceptional Android tablet that's powerful, well-built and outstanding value

Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
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

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas