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Why Texas’ ‘death penalty capital of the world’ stopped executing people

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Since the Supreme Court legalized capital punishment in 1976, Harris County, Texas, has executed 126 people. That's more executions than every individual state in the union, barring Texas itself.
Harris County's executions account for 23 percent of the 545 people Texas has executed. On the national level, the state alone is responsible for more than a third of the 1,465 people put to death in the United States since 1976.
In 2017, however, the county known as the "death penalty capital of the world" and the "buckle of the American death belt" executed and sentenced to death a remarkable number of people: zero.
This is the first time since 1985 that Harris County did not execute any of its death row inmates, and the third year in a row it did not sentence anyone to capital punishment either.
The remarkable statistic reflects a shift the nation is seeing as a whole.
“The practices that the Harris County District Attorney’s Office is following are also signifi…

Report: China still harvesting organs from prisoners at a massive scale

Chinese police officers rehearsing execution procedures
Chinese police officers rehearsing execution procedures
(CNN) A new report claims that China is still engaged in the widespread and systematic harvesting of organs from prisoners, and says that people whose views conflict with the ruling Chinese Communist Party are being murdered for their organs.

The report -- by former Canadian lawmaker David Kilgour, human rights lawyer David Matas, and journalist Ethan Gutmann -- collates publicly reported figures from hospitals across China to show what they claim is a massive discrepancy between official figures for the number of transplants carried out throughout the country.

They blame the Chinese government, the Communist Party, the health system, doctors and hospitals for being complicit.

"The (Communist Party) says the total number of legal transplants is about 10,000 per year. But we can easily surpass the official Chinese figure just by looking at the two or three biggest hospitals," Matas said in a statement.

The report estimates that 60,000 to 100,000 organs are transplanted each year in Chinese hospitals.

According to the report, that gap is made up of executed prisoners, many of them prisoners of conscience locked up for their religious or political beliefs. China does not report its total number of executions, which it regards as a secret.

The report's findings stand in stark contrast to Beijing's claim that, since the beginning of 2015, China has moved from almost completely relying on organs from prisoners to the "largest voluntary organ donation system in Asia."

At a regular press conference Thursday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said China has "strict laws and regulations on this issue."

"As for the testimony and the published report, I want to say that such stories about forced organ harvesting in China are imaginary and baseless -- they don't have any factual foundation," she said.

The National Health and Family Planning Commission, which oversees organ donations in China, did not respond to a request for comment for this piece.

Secret transplants

According to the report, thousands of people are being executed in China in secret and their organs harvested for use in transplant operations.

So who is being killed? The authors say mainly imprisoned religious and ethnic minorities, including Uyghurs, Tibetans, underground Christians, and practitioners of the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement.

While much of China's organ transplant system is kept secret, official figures show that 2,766 volunteers donated organs in 2015, with 7,785 large organs acquired.

According to Amnesty International, "tens of thousands of Falun Gong practitioners have been arbitrarily detained" since the government launched a crackdown on the practice in 1999.

China regards Falun Gong as a "cult" and claims followers engage in "anti-China political activities."

"The government considers Falun Gong a threat to its power, and has detained, imprisoned and tortured its followers," says Maya Wang, China researcher for Human Rights Watch.

The report says detained Falun Gong practitioners were forced to have blood tests and medical exams. Those test results were placed in a database of living organ sources so quick organ matches could be made, the authors claim.

This massive supply of organs served to benefit hospitals and doctors, making for an ever growing industry.

Click here to read the full article

Source: CNN, James Griffiths, June 23, 2016

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