China says it intends for the death penalty to be used only on "a very small number of extremely serious criminal offenders."

In a report published Monday, China's government says authorities "strictly control the death penalty and employ it with prudence."

China is believed to execute more people than the rest of the world put together, but no longer does so for most nonviolent crimes. China's law allows for the death penalty for dozens of offenses, including treason, separatism, spying, arson, murder, rape, robbery and human trafficking.

The number of executions in China is not known because such data is considered a state secret. Human rights groups say death sentences are often issued after unfair trials and that too much weight is given to confessions often obtained through torture.