The Chinese government is the world’s leading executioner by thousands, according to Amnesty International’s 2016 global review of the death penalty.
China outranks Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Pakistan and Vietnam, while putting to death more people annually that all other countries combined.
At least 1,032 people were executed in 23 countries in 2016. In 2015 Amnesty International recorded 1,634 executions in 25 countries worldwide – a historical spike unmatched since 1989.
Amnesty said China’s executions are sometimes cloaked in secrecy, adding that the global figure of at least 1,032 excludes the thousands of executions believed to have been carried out in China.
Excluding China, 87% of all executions took place in just four countries – Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Pakistan.
Describing the level of capital punishment in place as “grotesque,” Amnesty stated thousands of people are executed every year in a court system that lacks judicial process in the trials.
“Given the lack of an independent judiciary in China, the dominant role of the police, and the systematic over-reliance on confessions — often extracted through torture…there is a very real risk of miscarriages of justice,” said William Nee, author of the Amnesty report.
Past convictions have been overturned.
In December, China cleared the name of a man who was convicted of rape and murder two decades ago.
Nie Shubin, executed by firing squad, was found not guilty but only after his family campaigned for him and another man eventually confessed to the crimes.
Executions have also helped to supply the country with organ transplants, a practice that was in place until 2015, according to the Chinese government.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has declared his plan to reform China’s judicial system, but the country has yet to publish the exact number of executions still taking place in the country.
China’s top legal official, Supreme People’s Court President Zhou Qiang, has claimed executions are carried out in an “extremely small number of cases” and only for the “most severe offenses,” writes Nicholas Bequelin, East Asia regional director at Amnesty.
But secrecy involving the executions remains an issue despite efforts at reform, according to Amnesty.
Iran registered the second highest number of executions, more than 560, in 2016, and Vietnam may have put to death 429 people between August 2013 and June 2016.
The United States fell out of the top five with the lowest number of executions, or 20, since 1991.
For more read Amnesty’s Fact and Figures