Amnesty International compiles annual reports on the number of executions worldwide but China has been absent from its list since 2009 due to difficulties obtaining precise figures. However, the Dui Hua Foundation, a US-based rights group, has released an insight into something Beijing considers a state secret, placing the number of executions in 2013 at 2,400. China executes more people every year than the rest of the world combined and 2013's number marks a 20 percent increase on 2012.
After China, the Middle East is the globe's premier hotspot for the death penalty. Three countries - Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia, accounted for 95 percent of the region's 638 executions last year. Iran put the most people to death - 369. Iraq followed with 169 while Saudi Arabia executed 79. The United States comes fifth overall, executing 39 people in 2013.