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Killers shown on live TV before execution

(WASHINGTON POST) BEIJING — In an unusual action that quickly sparked debate online, Chinese authorities showed a live broadcast Friday of four foreign drug smugglers in their last hours before execution for killing 13 fishermen.

A shocking and apparently unprecedented form of reality TV for China, the program on state-run television featured all the staples of modern current events coverage — experts, pundits, instant analysis. It cut away as the convicted men were being led from their cells, hands tied up with rope, toward their lethal injections.

The reaction was immediate and polarized, with many online questioning the ethics of the broadcast, as well as China’s use of the death penalty. The exact number of annual executions in China is considered a state secret, but Amnesty International estimates that it could be thousands, which would be more than the rest of the world combined.