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‘Execution frenzy’ claims 1,781 in China

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BEIJING — China executed more people in the past three months than the rest of the world did in the past three years — 1,781 people put to death in a government campaign against crime, Amnesty International said today.

The London-based rights group said China has executed people not just for violent crimes but also for bribery, embezzlement, fraud, pimping, stealing gasoline, selling harmful foods and drug offenses.

"The campaign is nothing short of an execution frenzy, a huge waste of human life," Amnesty said.

The Chinese government did not comment on the report. But China justifies the crackdown and harsh sentencing as necessary to ensure "social stability," a catchall phrase describing the Communist Party's unrivaled authority and control over society.

Amnesty said its figures of at least 1,781 executions and 2,960 death sentences — since the anti-crime campaign called Strike Hard was launched in April — were tallied from publicly available reports.

In contrast, Amnesty counted 1,751 executions in the rest of the world over the past three years. But only a fraction of death sentences and executions in China are publicly reported, and the actual number of people put to death is far higher, the group said.

Amnesty, which opposes use of the death penalty, released its report one week before the International Olympic Committee votes on whether Beijing will host the 2008 Summer Olympics, or one of four other cities, including Paris and Toronto.

Critics say Chinese human rights abuses make Beijing unfit to hold the Games. Beijing officials say an Olympics would promote human rights in China. But they also argue that political considerations should not be used to judge Beijing's Olympic bid.

Amnesty expressed fears that in their rush to produce results for the anti-crime drive, called "Strike Hard," authorities risk executing innocent people. Police and prosecutors have been urged to cut corners to secure quick arrests and trials, it said.

Most executions take place after sentencing rallies in front of massive crowds in sports stadiums and public squares, it said.