China's chief justice has harsh words for killers

Most of China's executions are held by shooting
4/12/2008 BEIJING The comments from Wang Shengjun, president of the Supreme People's Court, struck a markedly different tone from that of his predecessor who had campaigned to reduce death sentences to the bare minimum - and only for the most heinous crimes.

Tough punishments are needed to "increase the sense of security among the people," the agency quoted Wang as saying during a tour of the southern province of Guangdong in the past week.

"Where the law mandates the death sentence, the death sentence should be given," Wang said. Crimes involving terrorism or organized groups, violence, and those that "seriously threaten social order" should be dealt with especially harshly, Wang said.

Rights groups say China executes more people annually than the rest of the world combined, although actual death penalty figures are treated as a state secret in China.

Most executions are carried by shooting, although some provinces have begun using lethal injection.

The number appeared to drop last year, however, under new legislation designed to reserve the death penalty for the most severe cases. Research by one monitoring group indicated that about 6,000 people were executed in 2007, about a 25 percent drop from the year before.

The death penalty is believed to have popular support in China, but the reform begun last year appeared to indicate that the government was trying to change a system that often put people to death just a few weeks after conviction for crimes ranging from murder to corruption.

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