Executions in China have dropped about 50% since 2007 to 4 000 per year, a human rights group estimated on Tuesday.
On Monday, convicted South African Janice Bronwyn Linden was executed in China for smuggling 3kg of methamphetamines into the country in 2008.
The number of executions carried out by China each year is a state secret, but the US-based Dui Hua Foundation said it had estimated that the use of the death penalty had been halved since China implemented a requirement in 2007 that all death sentences must be reviewed by the Supreme People’s Court.
Although Beijing has introduced several initiatives in recent years to limit the application of the death penalty, it is still thought to execute more convicts every year than the rest of the world combined.
“China has made dramatic progress in reducing the number of executions, but the number is still far too high and declining far too slowly,” said John Kamm, Dui Hua’s executive director.
Linden’s ashes, meanwhile, have been handed to a South African diplomat, the department of international relations and cooperation said on Monday afternoon.
“Her ashes … will be handed over to her family,” said department spokesperson Clayson Monyela.
Linden (35), from KwaZulu-Natal, was executed by lethal injection in China on Monday for drug smuggling.
She was arrested in Guangzhou in November 2008 after she was caught with three kilograms of crystal methamphetamine (tik) in her luggage. She was convicted of drug smuggling in 2009.
Earlier, the department said President Jacob Zuma had tried to intervene in Linden’s execution.
“He [Zuma] did intervene. All the necessary interventions were done at every possible level, even the highest ones,” said Monyela.
“Everything had to happen through diplomatic processes and there is very little that can be done around that.”
One of Linden’s relatives told the Mercury newspaper: “We communicated with letters. She said she didn’t know how the drugs got into her luggage. She thought she was being framed.
“Her sentence is not justified. How can you take a person’s life for three kilograms of methamphetamine?”
An eNews’ correspondent in Asia said her execution could have been commuted to a life sentence if Linden had confessed to the smuggling, but she had maintained her innocence.
Department spokesperson Clayson Monyela said the department could not comment on the report because it was not aware of the Chinese government’s reasons for going through with the execution. The execution would also not impact South Africa’s trade relationship with China, he said. — Sapa-dpa