China Introduces 
Mobile Execution Vans
By Catherine Armitage 
China Correspondent 
The Australian

The introduction of mobile execution vans, in which condemned prisoners are
put to death by lethal injection, has been hailed in Chinese media as "a
more humane method of dispatch". 
Last Thursday afternoon, two farmers from Yunnan province convicted of
heroin trafficking "benefited from the latest advance in China's judicial
system", the Beijing Today newspaper reported. 
Earlier that morning, Yunnan's legal authorities held a work conference on
the death penalty at which they approved the use of 18 specially converted
vans, to be distributed among the province's 17 intermediate courts and its
high court. Shortly afterwards, farmers Liu Huafu, 21, and Zhou Chaojie,
25, died peacefully within one minute of receiving their fatal shots in one
of the new vans, which in photographs look like ordinary police vans except
that they are emblazoned with the word "Court". 
The normal execution method in China is a bullet by firing squad to the
back of the head, but lethal injection has been allowed since a revision of
the criminal code in 1997. Yunnan chose the vans on the grounds of
efficiency and cost: in a very big province, they bypass the logistical
difficulties of transporting prisoners to execution grounds. 
"With lethal injection, only four people are required to execute the death
penalty: one executioner, one member of the court, one from the
procuratorate and one forensic doctor. A dozen guards are also required to
keep watch around the van," the paper said. 
"In contrast, many more guards are needed for firing squads, both around
the site and along the route from the prison. If the case is well-known and
complicated, security needs to be further enhanced and extra expenses are
Yunnan Provincial High Court president Zhao Shijie was quoted as saying
"the use of lethal injection shows that China's death penalty system is
becoming more civilised and humane". But Professor Wang Shizhou of Beijing
University said it was a "very sad development". 
"You can say it is a positive development compared with a gunshot, but you
can also say it is a negative development. It will encourage executions,"
he said. 
In China there are 320 listed criminal offences, of which 68 - or about one
in seven, including many white-collar crimes - are punishable by death. In
recent months, a cautious public debate has begun in which scholars and
legislators have expressed concern about the likelihood of wrongful
executions. At a conference on the death penalty late last year, the
removal of economic crimes from the list of offences punishable by death
was proposed as a first step towards abolition of the death penalty. 
China has never revealed how many prisoners are executed each year, but it
is estimated at about 10,000. 
Since 1998, a total of 819,000 Chinese have been either condemned to death
or jailed for more than five years, the president of China's Supreme Court
said this week. 
This was a 25 per cent increase on the previous five years, said Xiao Yang
in his annual report to the National People's Congress, China's parliament.
Including lesser crimes, there were altogether 3.2 million people
The number convicted for economic crimes was almost 70 per cent higher than
in the previous five years.,5744,6119850%5E2703,00.html