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China says executes 'very small number' of criminals

Associated Press Associated Press 12/09/2016

BEIJING — China, which is believed to execute more convicted people than the rest of the world combined, said Monday that it uses the death penalty only on "a very small number of extremely serious criminal offenders."

In a report published Monday, China's government says authorities "strictly control the death penalty and employ it with prudence."

Although China no longer executes people for most nonviolent crimes, its law allows for the death penalty for dozens of offenses, including treason, separatism, spying, arson, murder, rape, robbery and human trafficking.

A legal revision last year removed a number of offenses from the list of those punishable by death, included smuggling arms and ammunition, counterfeiting currency, forcing others into prostitution and obstructing military personnel in the performance of their duties.

The number of executions in China is not known because such data is considered a state secret. Amnesty International estimates that it executes more people than the rest of the world's countries put together, which totaled 1,634 in 2015.

Human rights groups say death sentences are often issued after unfair trials and that too much weight is given to confessions that are often obtained through torture.

President Xi Jinping has made a priority of reducing wrongful convictions and reforming the justice system to restore public confidence in the ruling Communist Party. However, the party refuses to consider a Western-style separation of powers that would allow for a completely independent judiciary.

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