Campaign of terror in China

Issue 

By Eva Cheng

wenty thousand people attended an "open trial" in Erzhou city in the Chinese province of Hubei on May 30 to hear the judgment of 70 defendants, four of whom received death sentences and were executed shortly afterwards.

In mid-May, 13 prisoners were paraded in shackles in front of 600 people in the southern special economic zone of Zhuhai before being led away and shot. On June 26, three prisoners in the same city were taken to the execution ground in an open truck, handcuffed and shackled, roped round the neck. More than 230 people were executed on the same day elsewhere in China, bringing the number executed over the last two months to more than 1000.

Most prisoners have to undergo humiliating treatment in public parades and mass rallies before the executions which, prominently publicised in state-controlled newspapers and television, form a key part of Beijing's latest Yanda (Strike hard) campaign.

Beijing says the executed are all criminals, which in its definition include "counter-revolutionaries" who criticise government policies and/or engage in self-organisation, despite the fact that those are rights fully within the country's constitution.

"Ordinary" crimes may be created by the inability to oppose government policies. Li Xueyin, recently executed in Hubei, was convicted of murdering a family planning official who had forced sterilisation on Li's wife. On May 15, the official People's Daily warned "Whoever deserves death penalty according to the law must be sentenced to death".

More executions are expected before the campaign closes at the end of July. Thousands were summarily executed in less than three months in the last campaign of this nature in 1983.

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