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China, which executes more people each year than any other country, will expand the use of lethal injections instead of gunshots for death sentences, a state-run newspaper reported Thursday.

Half of the country's 404 Intermediate People's Courts, which carry most executions, now use lethal injections, the China Daily quoted Jiang Xingchang, vice president of the Supreme People's Court, as saying.

Lethal injection "is considered more humane and will eventually be used in all Intermediate People's Courts," Jiang said in the report. He did not give a time schedule for the change.

China does not officially release capital punishment figures, but it is believed to execute more people each year than the rest of the world combined. Death penalty recipients include some people convicted of nonviolent crimes such as fraud.

The human rights monitoring group Amnesty International says China executed at least 1,770 people in 2005 — about 80 percent of the world's total. The true number is widely believed to be many times higher, however.

China has attempted to reform its capital punishment system following reports in 2005 of executions of wrongly convicted people, and criticism that lower courts arbitrarily impose the death sentence.

An amendment to China's capital punishment law, enacted in November 2005, restored to the Supreme People's Court the sole right to approve all death sentences, ending a 23-year-old practice of allowing provincial courts alone to sign off on executions.


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