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Rare Photos Show Chinese Prisoners in Their Final Hours Before Facing a Firing Squad

"The women had all been convicted of drug trafficking..."

China's human rights record is, by many accounts, startling. The communist nation uses a heavy hand in punishing its citizens, as the death penalty is imposed even for crimes that are non-violent in nature. Many times, individuals who have not had a fair trial are hauled off to be killed by a firing squad.

According to Amnesty International, "500,000 people are currently enduring punitive detention without charge or trial, and millions are unable to access the legal system to seek redress for their grievances." And when it comes to the death penalty, the numbers are even more shocking.

While the Chinese government does not release official counts, a recent CBS News report claims that about 4,000 individuals may have been put to death last year. The United States, which includes some states that still employ the death penalty for violent crimes, only executed 46 people last year.

Earlier this month, Daily Mail highlighted some startling images of women on death row in China. These individuals, who were convicted of drug trafficking, are seen enjoying their final minutes and hours. The photos are particularly striking, due to China's closed nature.

In what the Mail calls "an unprecedented move," a civilian photographer was allowed inside the No 1 Detention Center in Wuhan, China, on June 24, 2003. The images expose the women's activities in the hours and moments before they were killed. The Mail reports:

The photographer was granted access to Ma Qingxiu, Li Juhua, Dai Donggui and He Xiuling from 9pm until 7.21 am the next morning. The women had all been convicted of drug trafficking and sentenced to death.

Now, nearly a decade later, the images captured are finally making their rounds. While the photos were originally banned, as the government feared they would spawn sympathy for the prisoners, they were recently published by Hong Kong broadcaster Phoenix TV.

In one photo, Donggui is seen eating fresh fruit, dumplings and hot pies from McDonald's prior to her execution:

In addition to devouring delicious foods, the women were also given new clothing. Below, see Xiuling putting on a new pair of shoes that she will wear during her execution:

Here, Donggui can be seen organizing and folding the clothing that she'll wear during her execution the next day:

You can see more of the images here and watch a news report produced by CBS News that explains the executions and the images:

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