Asia's Dying Death Penalty

Article excerpt

THE SOURCE: "Asia's Declining Death Penalty" by David T. Johnson, in The Journal of Asian Studies, May 2010.

OVER THE LAST 50 YEARS, THE prevalence of capital punishment around the world has decreased dramatically. By 1970, a total of 21 countries had abolished capital punishment. Today, 103 have done so, and 36 more have the death penalty on the books but have not executed anyone in at least 10 years. In Europe, Central and South America, and Africa, capital punishment is exceedingly rare. There remain four death penalty strongholds: the United States, the Caribbean, the Middle East, and Asia. Asia, home to 60 percent of the world's population, accounts for more than 90 percent of the executions of recent years.

Still, the death penalty's prevalence in Asia is diminishing, writes David T. Johnson, a professor of sociology at the University of Hawaii, Manoa. 0f29 Asian jurisdictions, just 13 have capital punishment and only four--China, Vietnam, North Korea, and Singapore--use it with any frequency. These countries do not provide official data on the number of executions (in China it's a crime to disclose that figure), but Johnson says that China "probably" executed an average of 15,000 people a year between 1998 and 200;. Singapore, with a population only a little larger than Houston's, executed upward of 70 people in 1994 and 1995, approximately as many as Houston did for the entire period from 1976 to 2004--and Houston is "the most aggressive executing jurisdiction in the most aggressive executing state in the most aggressive executing democracy in the world. …