Since the 1980s, there has been a global trend towards abolition of the death penalty. More than 140 countries have either abolished the death penalty or do not practice it. In December 2017, the UN General Assembly voted overwhelmingly, for the seventh time, in support of a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty.

The picture in Asia is more mixed. There was welcome news from Mongolia in July 2017 when the country's new criminal code, abolishing the death penalty, came into effect. Thailand is currently a de facto abolitionist; it has not executed anyone since 2009. China, however, remains the world's most prolific executioner. Although the number of executions appears to have declined in recent years, statistics on China's use of the death penalty remain a state secret.

Many non-violent offences, including drug-related crime, can attract the death penalty in China, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. As a supporter of Anti Death Penalty Asia Network, ADPAN, we urge all countries in Asia to end mandatory death sentences for drug-related crime. There is no evidence that it has a deterrent effect. In 2016, we hosted a side event on drug crime and the death penalty in China at the World Congress Against the Death Penalty in Oslo.

The death penalty is inextricably linked to poverty. Economic and social inequalities affect access to justice and poor families are disproportionately impacted by the execution of a breadwinner. In a recent report we look at how poverty undermines access to justice in China.

Public opinion in China is seen to be largely supportive of the death penalty, but concerns about miscarriages of justice and unfairness in the application of the death penalty have led more people to question its use. We support the efforts of China's lawyers and scholars to challenge China's application of the death penalty and work towards its abolition.