In the wake of criticism following its customary celebration of UN International Anti-Drugs Day by executing dozens of drug offenders, the Chinese government has defended its frequent use of the death penalty against traffickers as it cracks down on drug use. A top Chinese anti-drug official said the executions were both popular and necessary, the Associated Press reported.
"The Chinese masses applaud giving the death penalty to drug traffickers," said Yang Fengrui, deputy secretary general of the National Narcotics Control Commission. "Drug trafficking has severe social consequences. It's equal to killing people." While the government hopes to "rehabilitate" drug users so they can "return to society," Yang elaborated, it is fully prepared to enact "severe punishment" for criminals.
With more than a million registered drug addicts -- and who knows how many unregistered ones -- the number of Chinese drug users is on the increase. But to be transformed from mere user to "trafficker" eligible for the death penalty requires only possession of five kilos of cannabis resin, one kilo of heroin, or less than two ounces of cocaine.
According to the Associated Press, China executed 28 people on drug charges on International Anti-Drugs Day alone. As DRCNet reported three weeks ago (http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/344/un.shtml), Chinese authorities had spent the whole week before Anti-Drug Day executing dozens, and perhaps hundreds, more.
In a report issued by Amnesty International just before Anti-Drugs Day last month, the human rights organization said "more than 50 people were executed on drug-related charges in just eight of China's 23 provinces in the single week leading up to Anti-Drugs Day last year. The total number across China is likely to have been in the hundreds."
Amnesty International is calling on the Chinese government to halt these executions and to review all future use of the death penalty. "In the week leading up to 26 June, UN Anti-Drugs Day and government measures to tackle drug crime are publicized in the Chinese media. Despite this extra reporting of death sentences, drug-related crime, drug use, and amounts of drugs seized by customs are all at a high level or actually rising in China. This reality seriously undermines official claims that the death penalty is an effective deterrent against drug crime in China."