Beijing's first permanent lethal injection facility has been completed, ahead of plans to abolish execution by firing squad for criminals next year.
The new facility is within the Beijing No 1 Detention Center in Chaoyang district, the Beijing Youth Daily reported yesterday, quoting sources from three intermediate courts. Court personnel responsible for executions have recently received training in operation of the beds, injection pumps and other equipment.
Beijing's justice authority did not provide details about the new facility yesterday, and it is unknown how many execution beds the facility has prepared.
Most criminal executions this year were carried out by a firing squad at various sites in suburban Beijing, the justice authority said. Condemned prisoners are blindfolded and turned away from court marshals.
A small number received a lethal injection.
Experts familiar with execution methods said the reform had taken years to implement.
"This is no longer the time for public executions," said Qu Xinjiu, a criminal law professor at the China University of Politics and Law.
"The harshness of the execution is not necessary to horrify the public and torture the criminals, who also deserve decent deaths," said Zhao Bingzhi, secretary-general of the China Law Science Society Criminal Law Research Institute.
Zheng Xiaoyu, executed on July 10, 2007, was the last senior official to die from lethal injection. He was convicted of corruption during his tenure as director of the State Food and Drug Administration.
Zhao said lethal injection for corrupt officials was not an act of mercy for those in power.
"The officials who received lethal injections were known because of media reports. But the practice is not restricted to officials only, the other cases just went unreported," said Zhao.
It costs the Beijing government about 700 yuan ($103) to carry out one execution by firing squad. Lethal injection is expected to cost more money because of the technology involved.
Media reported in June that courts will likely use sodium thiopental, a rapid anaesthetic, as a component of the injection. The process takes about one minute.
The US also use this drug for condemned prisoners.
Lethal injection practices have been gradually put into operation since 1997 in 15 provinces and municipalities around China.
Justice authorities in Beijing have been reluctant to use the practice widely.
The Beijing government does not release the number of executed criminals each year.
(China Daily 11/06/2009 page26)