Injection to replace bullet to the head

Source:Global Times Published: 2009-11-6 3:20:59

A lethal-injection room

By Guo Qiang

All criminals facing the death penalty in Beijing will be subject to lethal injection instead of a gunshot to the head, starting from next year, the Beijing Youth Daily reported Thursday. The move was welcomed by legal experts.

A lethal-injection room has been completed and is ready for official use, marking the end of execution by gunshot in the capital city.

Beijing has only applied lethal injection to certain government officials, such as Zheng Xiaoyu, former director of the State Food and Drug Administration, since the country legalized the new method in 1997, according to the report.

There is no official figure of the number of executed convicts in China. According to Amnesty International, at least 1,718 people were executed and at least 7,003 people are known to have been sentenced to death in 2008.

Many other cities, including Kunming, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Chengdu, have been administering lethal injections to some prisoners.

The room, built near the city's No. 1 detention center, which houses death-row inmates in Dougezhuang town, in eastern Beijing, has been under inspection by local court personnel who carry out the death penalty, the paper reported. The courts tasked with sentencing executions are working on a route that could be used when police officers escort executed prisoners to the room.

The room is a two-story building, well equipped with execution and observation rooms and a disinfection facility, the Legal Mirror reported Thursday. Infrared light and surveillance screens were also put into place in the event of a convict's escape.

The practice of lethal injection is believed to be easier to manage, safer, faster and pollution-free, the report said.

Would-be inmates in line for execution will receive intravenous injections controlled by a syringe operated by trained medical staff, the Beijing Youth Daily reported. Forensic doctors will determine whether the prisoners are dead or not, based on a computer-generated report.

After years of effort, China has rolled out a commonly used dose used for lethal injections that is a mixture of barbiturates, a muscle relaxant and potassium chloride, according to the Xinmin Evening News.

The barbiturates are used to make the prisoners lose consciousness, the muscle relaxant paralyzse the heart and paralyze pulmonary activities, while the third ingredient, potassium chloride, can lead to cardiac arrest, according to medical experts.

Currently the drug is provided free of charge to local courts by the Supreme People's Court. Before that, the Supreme Court controlled it and local courts had to pay 300 yuan ($41) per dose.


Despite calls for China to abolish capital punishment, the country has showed no signs of scrapping the practice, citing a possibly worsening public security environment.

But lethal injection appeared on the debating table after China amended the Criminal Procedure Law in 1997, with an alternative option to "a bullet to the head" that has been adopted in China since 1979.

As early as 1997, Kunming, the capital city of China's Yunnan Province, made its mark after becoming the first city to adopt the method, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

He Jiahong, deputy director of the Research Center for Criminal Law Studies at the Renmin University of China, told the Global Times that the practice is much more humane for death-row inmates.

"Bullets are the equivalent of torture and a revenge for prisoners' misbehavior, " he said.

Qu Xinjiu, a professor at the China University of Political Science and Law, is also supportive of the lethal injection, saying it does not need many police officers and special locations in order to be carried out.

Lethal injection has now become equally used after becoming a privilege for former officials or the rich in the early years since its introduction.

In 2000, Cheng Kejie, former vice chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, was executed by lethal injection in Beijing. Zheng Xiaoyu, former director of the State Food and Drug Administration, met the same fate in 2007 for bribery.

Thursday, Xu Wei, the son of local official Xu Fengshan, in Yushu, in Northeast China's Jilin Province, was executed by lethal injection by the Changchun Intermediate People's Court for intentional murder and organizing and masterminding mafia-like crime gangs, according to Xinhua.

"The method of execution, by gunshot or injection, should be the same for all death-row criminals," He Jiahong said. "They should not just be judged by their status."

But lethal injection seems to have a long way to go before it is commonly used in the country.

It is estimated that a lethal injection vehicle would cost 700,000 yuan ($95,812) and an execution field 1 million yuan, legal expert Liu Renwen said in a report.

But the cost for a death-row prisoner, which is covered by the government, stood at merely 700 yuan.

Liu said the time is ripe to promote the use of injections instead of bullets, amid the current economic development, especially following the sharp decrease in the number of capital punishment sentences after the Supreme People's Court (SPC) regained the right of death-penalty review.

An Baijie and Zhang Han contributed to the story

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