Updated (2x) – Ties That Bind: China, US, Torture and the Death Penalty

( – promoted by buhdydharma )

Amnesty International reported yesterday that China is the world’s top executioner. From ITN News in the UK:

But as with everything else in life, there are unseen ties that link China’s use of the death penalty with the United States’ use of torture in conducting the “war on terror”.

But first, some facts. From The Press Association:

Amnesty’s UK director Kate Allen said: “As the world’s biggest executioner, China gets the ‘gold medal’ for global executions. According to reliable estimates, on average China secretly executes around 22 prisoners every day – that’s 374 people during the Olympic Games.”

She added: “Everyone involved in this year’s Olympics, especially the IOC, should be pressing China to reveal the extent of its use of the death penalty, to reduce the 60-plus crimes for which it can be imposed and to move toward abolition.”

Chinese criminal law professor Liu Renwen estimated in 2006 that 8,000 executions take place annually in China, which hosts the 29th Olympiad in Beijing from August 8 to 24. And the US-based Dui Hua Foundation estimated that 7,500 to 8,000 executions took place in the same year.

Nearly 70 crimes can carry the death penalty in China including tax fraud, stealing VAT receipts, damaging electric power facilities, selling counterfeit medicine, embezzlement, accepting bribes and drugs offences.

link: http://ukpress.google.com/arti…

Al Jazeera highlights the number of countries in the world who still use the death penalty:

The Amnesty report said 88 per cent of all known executions take place in just five countries, China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the United States.

link: http://english.aljazeera.net/N…

From the article, it also covers the calls from Amnesty International to remove secrecy from the process:

The organisation called on all governments that allow the death penalty to lift what it called the “veil of secrecy” over the practice.

Bannister said: “We need to see that the borders of execution-free Europe and the Americas are pushed back into the Middle East and Asia until we see a world free of executions.”

Secrecy. Quiet use of the ultimate form of violence the state can impose on the individual. Violence and secrecy are deadly combinations. In China, as reported by ITN, the use of the death penalty is considered a state secret, therefore it is impossible to gauge exactly how many people are put to death.

And here, the use of torture by our government has been shrouded in secrecy.

This interview with Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights reveals not just how the use of torture has been covered by a veil of secrecy, but also how our independent judiciary has been compromised by our government’s insistence on using torture to conduct their “war on terror”:

The United States and China have both made the decision that the state can use the death penalty, the ultimate form violence against the individual.

Any further discussions about what other forms of violence are acceptable to use are just dancing around matters of degrees. And that discussion can be pretty macabre, as WaPo points out:

The Post reported that the methods discussed included open-handed slapping, the threat of live burial and waterboarding. The threat of live burial was rejected, according to an official familiar with the meetings.

link: http://www.washingtonpost.com/…

People sat in a White House and had meetings about whether the threat of live burial would be acceptable. Let me say this again: Dick Cheney, Attorney General John Ashcroft, Secretary of State Colin Powell, CIA Director George Tenet and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice (all of whom ABC News reports as being involved in these meetings) sat in a room and asked the question whether or not the threat of live burial would be acceptable.

How was the question brought up? Was it a bullet-point on the meeting minutes? Or was it approached more trepidatiously? Did someone just “throw this out there” to “run it up the flag pole and see if anyone salutes”?

But we rejected that particular form of violence. Good. for. us.

China shrouds its use of the death penalty in secrecy. Our government, which already has laws legalizing the death penalty on the books, held secret meetings where the prospect of threatening people with being buried alive was discussed and rejected, but the practice of making someone feel like they’re drowning seemed kind of okay by comparison.

And we are two of five nations in the world that finds it acceptable to put criminals to death.

Once you believe that it’s acceptable to kill someone, using other forms of violence is just a matter of degrees. I don’t think it’s just coincidence that this same President who has approved the use of torture was governor of the one state in our union that far outpaced all of the others in terms of the number of criminals it killed.

Accept the ultimate form of violence, and all other forms start to seem more acceptable.

All justifications – that these are “evil people”, that “they are only the most deserving of criminals”, that “we’re protecting the security of our nation” – are only justifications. Violence begets violence. A state that kills people, that tortures people and that discusses whether or not it’s okay to threaten someone with live burial instead of making them feel like they’re drowning cannot claim the high ground. It cannot make the argument that this injustice actually helps its citizens. This includes China. This includes the United States.

And any state that feels it must shroud its use of violence away from the eyes of its citizens knows that what it is doing is wrong. It is wrong for the Chinese government to keep journalists and international observers out of Tibet. It is wrong for the United States government to still keep this part of their “war on terror” plans a secret:

The department issued another still-secret memo in October 2001 that, in part, sought to outline novel ways the military could be used domestically to defend the country in the face of an impending attack. The Justice Department so far has refused to release it, citing attorney-client privilege, and Attorney General Michael Mukasey declined to describe it Thursday at a Senate panel where Democrats characterized it as a “torture memo.”

link: http://abcnews.go.com/Politics…

Free Tibet. Free China. Free the United States.

Free the World.

Please keep all sides of these conflicts in your thoughts, prayers and meditations.

UPDATE  Students for a Free Tibet are calling on folks to call Coca-Cola during their shareholders meeting to ask that they put pressure on the IOC to stop the Olympic torch from traveling to Tibet, which will only worsen the situation there and open the door to more suppression and violence:

Coca-Cola is holding its annual shareholders meeting in Delaware today. As an official sponsor of China’s global torch relay, and one of the most influential corporations in the world, Coca-Cola has the power to pressure the International Olympic Committee to stop the torch from going to Tibet in May and June. Tibetans and their supporters are at the meeting right now to speak out and demand Coca Cola’s executives use their influence to save Tibetan lives.

Please make sure Coca-Cola feels the pressure today; send the letter below and phone their corporate headquarters at 1-800-GET-COKE (1-800-438-2653). As a signatory to the U.N. Global Compact, Coca-Cola has promised to “support and respect the protection of international human rights” and ensure that Coca-Cola is “not complicit in human rights abuses.” Tell Coke that it will have blood on its hands for any Tibetan lives lost as a result of the torch going to Tibet and to use its influence now to do the right thing. ***Please be polite but firm when you call.

link: http://actionnetwork.org/campa…

In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.:

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

Please do what you can to help stop this injustice.

UPDATE (2) H/T to buhdydharma. Brave New Films is calling for the immediate resignation of Condoleezza Rice for misleading Congress about the use of torture by the United States government:

Link to sign the petition: http://condimustgo.com/


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  1. The Amnesty report said 88 per cent of all known executions take place in just five countries, China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the United States.

    Company I’m not proud of.  

  2. argument to justify the death penalty.  It doesn’t even deter violent crime and has been shown to lead to more violence in the areas where an execution has occurred.

    The absolutely irrational support of this barbaric practice is mind boggling to me.  Vengence does not undo the crime and killing someone is only State supported murder.  

    I’m glad and I know that I’m not the only one who feels this way but many Americans still see execution as a valid form of punishment.

    It just goes to show how truly uncivilized we are.  We like to imply we are above such nations as China but we’ve only proven that we just lie about it better.

  3. We really have lost our way, I fear.

  4. I don’t believe in an eye for an eye, I don’t think it’s a good lesson for people. I also can’t approve of capital punishment because innocent people are sent to death. Unfortunately race has been a huge factor in innocent people being executed.

    As for Cheney, Rice, Tenet, Ashcroft and Powell and their secret meetings, they all need to be investigated and held accountable for their crimes. We’re supposed to value the laws this democracy is built upon, if we don’t value our historic laws, who are we as a country?

    • Zwoof on April 17, 2008 at 04:50

    The data you provide is from 2006 and before.  There has been drastic reform regarding the death penalty in China.

    Before, any provincial court could issue a death sentence.  The law was changed and now all must be appealed to the Supreme People’s Court (Central Government)

    The new amendment also removes a dangerous anomaly. Previously, 90 percent of death sentences were reviewed by the same provincial courts that heard the appeals, which were unlikely to change their own rulings. Supreme Court hearings will provide another layer of protection.

    The Supreme Court has doubled the number of its review-tribunal judges to 100.

    The law marks a continuation of what pro-reform Chinese legal scholars say is a welcome trend toward more measured use of the death penalty. Since last July all appeals of death sentences must be held in open court; previously, appeal judges could simply read through case files in their chambers.

    China has also reduced the number of offenses that are punishable by death.

    Another  (more current)quote from your source:

    The new law “is very positive,” says reformist legal scholar Liu Renwen. “It is a signal that our government will pay more and more attention to limiting the use of the death penalty.”

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