BEIJING China will expand the use of lethal injections to replace execution by gunshot, state media said on Thursday of a country which kills more convicts than anywhere else.
China executes about 10,000 people a year, according to the New York-based group Human Rights Watch. Other estimates of China's annual executions range between 5,000 and 12,000.
Lethal injections were considered "more humane and will eventually be used in all intermediate people's courts", the China Daily quoted Jiang Xingchang, vice-president of the Supreme People's Court, as saying.
China has been slowly reforming the death penalty system after several high-profile wrongful convictions raised public anger.
The Supreme People's Court last year took back its power of final approval on death penalties, relinquished to provincial high courts in a crime-fighting campaign in the 1980s.
But the China Daily did not suggest any quick end to China's use of the death penalty.
"We cannot talk about abolishing or controlling the use of death sentences in the abstract without considering ground realities and social security conditions," it quoted Chief Justice Xiao Yang as saying, adding that there was a strong belief in the concept of "an eye for an eye and a life for a life".
The death penalty is imposed for dozens of crimes, including non-violent offences such as corruption and tax fraud.
Among those executed last year was Zheng Xiaoyu, former head of the food and drug safety watchdog, who was put to death for taking bribes to renew drugs licenses.
(Reporting by Beijing Newsroom; editing by Nick Macfie)