China was the world’s top executioner last year, while the United States put to death fewer people than it has in more than two decades, the human rights group Amnesty International said on Tuesday.

More than 90 percent of the world’s executions took place in five countries – China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Pakistan.

More than 3,000 people in 55 countries were condemned to death last year, marking a 56 percent surge from 2015.

China is believed to have executed “thousands” of people, more than the combined figure of at least 1,023 executions in 23 other countries last year, the rights group said.

“China now wants to assume a global leadership role. In respect to death penalty it is leading in the worst possible way,” said Amnesty International’s regional director for East Asia, Nicholas Bequelin.

“Nobody executes at that scale. Nobody executes with such secrecy. Nobody executes so quickly.”

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China does not announce the number of people executed, guarding the data as a state secret.

The head of China’s Supreme People’s Court, Zhou Qiang, said in March China has made sure to impose capital punishment on “an extremely small number of criminals who committed extremely serious crimes,” according to the official Xinhua news agency.

 

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