“When he looked at me, I could see fear, uncertainty and hope in his eyes. The emotions flashed by so quickly, I would have missed it if I had not been paying attention.”

An article written in Chinese by a prosecutor in China has been circulating on various blogs and WeChat. The author, credited as Nan Shiqin (南世勤), in the piece describes his experience supervising the execution of a 23-year-old convicted murderer.

Nan comes face-to-face with the prisoner at a morgue, where the convict is executed by a firing squad. The aftermath of the death penalty is nothing like what television dramas show, writes Nan.

“There are no angry shouts from the prisoner, no family crying; the autopsy is quick, and the body is hauled onto a chaise from the morgue and taken away.”

“I felt regret having to end the life of someone so young. At 23, his life was only just beginning. But I also knew that the law is ruthless because it needs to uphold the greater good,” writes the prosecutor. “It was not an easy job for me, watching a young man give his life to atone for his crimes.”

Death penalty data is a state secret in China, but according to an Amnesty International report in 2016, the country is the world’s top executioner.

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) pledged to abolish the death penalty in 1922, but Amnesty International estimates that thousands of executions and death sentences are carried out in China each year — despite the Supreme People’s Court judgments database only recording 701 approved death sentences between 2011 and 2016.

Amnesty International found 931 death sentences reported in Chinese media between 2014 and 2016, but only 85 of those cases were documented in the Supreme People’s Court database.

The international human rights organization also reports that the majority of people sentenced to death between 2011 to 2016 were often unemployed or classified as “rural people or farmers,” with more than half being the latter.

Read More:
INFOGRAPHIC: China the World’s Top Executor in 2016

Editor: Olivia Yang