BEIJING (Reuters) - Hu Xiao says his job as one of China’s executioners is usually not very complicated, except for the time when a prisoner he was about to kill stood up and ran toward his loaded rifle.
The rare glimpse into the ranks of China’s executioners appeared in the Beijing Evening News newspaper on Monday.
Hu, a veteran judicial police officer, described the routine of shooting dead prisoners convicted of murder and other capital crimes in China, which rights groups say carries out more judicial killings each year than anywhere else in the world.
“In fact, it’s not as complicated as outsiders think. We all use rifles, stand about four meters from the condemned prisoner with a barrel one meter-long, take aim, press the trigger, and that’s that,” Hu told the newspaper.
Most prisoners taken for execution are so terrified they collapse on the ground and cannot stand, Hu said. The exception was an ex-soldier convicted of homicide, he said.
“At the time of execution, the criminals kneel on the ground, but this former soldier actually stood up and ran forward. The result was a moving target that was taken down,” said Hu, himself a former soldier who has worked as a police officer for 19 years.
“These people all deserved what they got for their crimes.”
China does not publish statistics of the number of people it executes. But human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, have said it executes more prisoners than any other country — thousands in 2010, according to Amnesty.
The United States executed 46 people, nearly all by lethal injections, in 2010, said Amnesty.
China has been moving toward using more lethal injections, which are less prone to mishaps than guns, but Hu spoke only of his routine of shooting convicted prisoners.
When he first took the job of judicial police officer, Hu told the newspaper, older officers made him watch two executions and inspect the fresh corpses. Then it was time for Hu to do it himself, and the newspaper said he was not nervous.
“Yet the second time he was carrying out the task he did become nervous. Not because he was afraid, but out of fear of not shooting straight and becoming a laughing stock among his colleagues,” said the report.
Younger police officers take longer to become used to executions, said Hu.
“For the older judicial police, carrying out executions became a routine task long ago,” said the report.
Reporting by Chris Buckley; Editing by Paul Tait