At least 1,700 people were executed on the mainland last year, up 260 per cent from the year before, and more than 7,000 death sentences were handed down by the mainland courts, Amnesty International said yesterday in its annual human rights report.
The mainland accounted for more than 70 per cent of the 2,390 executions worldwide, it said. Twenty-four other countries still use capital punishment.
The Supreme People's Court resumed the power to review death sentences in late 2006, and there was a significant drop in executions in 2007, with 470 executions and 1,860 death penalties handed down.
The report said Beijing had vetoed a UN resolution calling for a worldwide moratorium on executions, but was making increased use of lethal injections, said to be a 'more humane' method of execution.
It said human rights defenders, petitioners, religious practitioners, ethnic minorities, lawyers, and journalists had risked being subjected to torture and other ill-treatment by the authorities and unidentified individuals in the run-up to the Beijing Olympics in August. Beijing was also accused of tightening its grip on free expression last year.
The report also cited Tibetan organisations as saying that hundreds of Tibetans remained in detention at the end of last year for their alleged connection with unrest in March 2008. The authorities say very few remain in detention and that more than 1,000 people detained in relation to the protests were released last year.
Amnesty said several Tibetans were suspected to have been tortured to death in detention centres or labour camps. Meanwhile, the suppression of Uygurs had been stepped up in the name of fighting terrorism, it said.