BEIJING, CHINA - China has executed three convicted drug dealers and sentenced dozens more to death or life in prison in a clampdown ahead of the UN's anti-drug day, state media said on Wednesday.
The death penalties were among a number of harsh judgments handed down in hundreds of cases and sentencing rallies held nationwide ahead of Thursday's UN International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking.
At least 24 of the convicted drug traffickers were sentenced to death and 12 others sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve, meaning they will likely serve life in jail, Xinhua news agency and other state media reports said.
Scores of other convicted traffickers were reportedly given life sentences in what the government has called a protracted 'people's war on drugs.'
'After three years of our people's war on drugs, we have effectively contained drug sources and the widespread expansion of dangerous drug products and drug addicts,' Yang Fengrui, head of narcotics control in the public security ministry, told journalists.
'But although our fight against drugs has clearly turned in our favour, it remains a difficult struggle.'
China regularly steps up executions of drug traffickers ahead of the June 26 anti-drug day to signal its determination in fighting narcotics-related crime.
Yang said a new campaign had been kicked off to curb drug smuggling into China and vowed to create a 'drug-free' Beijing Olympics in August.
According to Xinhua, the three executions took place in southeastern China's Fujian province and included a drug dealer from Taiwan, identified as Tseng Fuwen.
Among the latest round of sentences, 20 separate cases were handled Tuesday by courts in Shanghai in the east and the southern city of Shenzhen, Xinhua said in a separate report.
'As the number and scale of drug dealing cases have been increasing in recent years, the court has raised its strength to crack down,' the report quoted Shanghai court judge Zhang Zhijie as saying.
Zhang was speaking after his court handed down three death sentences, including one for an unemployed man caught with 3.5 kilogrammes of drugs, the report said.
The Chinese government has been severely criticised by overseas human rights groups for its frequent use of the death penalty.
The government does not publish official statistics on executions, but Chen Zhonglin, a delegate to the national parliament, was quoted by official media in 2004 saying the figure was up to 10,000 annually.
Twenty-nine convicted traffickers were given death sentences or sentenced to life in prison on Tuesday in the eastern province of Jiangsu, the local government's news website said, without giving a precise breakdown.
It was not immediately clear whether that total was part of the three dozen mentioned earlier.
Chinese legal officials have signalled the death penalty will endure and cite public support for the punishment as a major reason. -- AFP