Execution van

Execution Van
Manufacturer Jinguan Group
Also called Mobile Execution Unit
Production 1997–present

Execution vans, also referred to as "mobile execution units", were developed by the government of the People's Republic of China and were first used in 1997. Prisoners are strapped to a stretcher and executed via lethal injection inside the van. The vans allow for death sentences to be carried out without having to move the prisoner to an execution ground. The vans also require less manpower per execution, requiring only four people to assist with the injection.[1] Although the PRC claims that the vans are more humane than previous forms of execution, human rights groups predict the execution rate in China will increase because of mobile capital punishment.[2]



Following the 1997 decision to legalize lethal injections as a form of execution, PRC officials began using execution vans across China, however it did not become popular until 2006. They state that the vans are cost-effective by allowing communities without the money to build dedicated death rows to kill prisoners without the costs associated with sending a prisoner away for death. Former Chinese judge and current lawyer Qiu Xingsheng argues that "some places can't afford the cost of sending a person to Beijing—perhaps $250—plus $125 more for the drug."[3] As Beijing is the only place where the injection is manufactured, the vans have allowed localities to administer the death sentence where the crime took place. Estimates place the number of execution vans currently in operation at around 40, although the PRC will not confirm this number.

A converted 24-seat bus, the execution van keeps the appearance of a normal police van on the outside with no markings indicating its purpose. The rear of the vehicle houses a windowless chamber where the execution takes place. Several cameras are present and feed closed-circuit televisions in the front of the van; a recording can be made if desired. The bed itself slides out of the wall under its own power, on which the convicted person is strapped down. A syringe is put into the arm by a technician and a police official administers the injection by pressing a button. The subject experiences a loss of consciousness and death within 30 to 60 seconds. The drug used is a highly concentrated solution of sodium pentobarbital[citation needed] (a chemical with which extensive experience has been gained in the euthanasia of animals, including larger mammals). Central nervous system depression sets in, ultimately stopping breathing and depriving the heart and brain of oxygen (hypoxia), ending the person's life. This procedure differs significantly from the most common execution method employed in the US, in which three drugs are used: one to cause rapid unconsciousness (pentothal), muscle paralysis (pavulon) and death through the heart muscle being depressed by injection of a potassium chloride solution. The first execution of a person in the US using sodium pentobarbital occurred on December 16, 2010.[4]


The PRC government claims that this is a more humane form of killing people, being far less painful than firing squad executions. Zhao Shijie, president of the Yunnan Provincial High Court, was quoted as praising the new system: "The use of lethal injection shows that China's death penalty system is becoming more civilized and humane."[2] While the vans have moved China away from previous days of large public executions, human rights activists counter that they are "like government-sanctioned death squads", and allow for an increased number and a higher efficiency of executions.

There is fear also that mobile execution units have made organ harvesting much easier and more profitable, as lethal injection does not damage the body. Although the Ministry of Health in March 2006 that banned the sale of organs,[3] many[who?] believe that it has had no effect. Activists charge that the bodies are quickly cremated, which makes it impossible for family members to determine if organs have in fact been removed.[1]

Notable executions

On December 22, 2003, organized crime leader Liu Yong was executed in an execution van in a controversial ruling. Liu was convicted of 32 charges and sentenced to death in 2000, but was granted a reprieve after appealing the case on the grounds that his confession was forced. Liu had been given a retrial by the Supreme Court on December 17. It was the first time the Supreme Court had bypassed China's two trial system in which two trials are permitted and the verdict of the second trial may be appealed by either side.[5][6]

On March 17, 2006, billionaire Yuan Baojing was executed in a van for the arranged murder of a blackmailer.[3]

See also


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