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Peking executes 100 in crackdown over drugs

CHINA, facing an escalating drug addiction and trafficking problem, executed aroung 100 drug criminals in the run-up to yesterday's International Anti-Drugs Day. The mass-sentencing sessions and executions, reported in the official press, took place in a number of provinces in what has become an annual ritual to demonstrate China's attempt to clamp down on the drug problem.

With the south of China increasingly being used as a conduit for hard drugs from the 'Golden Triangle' area of Burma, Thailand and Laos, Peking is under increasing pressure from the international community to improve its anti-drug policing.

At least 47 drug criminals were executed on Friday, nearly half in Kunming, the capital of Yunnan province that borders Burma and which is the drugs centre of China. On Saturday at least 46 more were executed and 13 more condemned to death in the southern Guangdong province. Two Hong Kong citizens and four Taiwanese were among those shot.

In an anti-drugs ceremony in front of a memorial to those who died during the Opium Wars in the 19th century, Guangdong authorities also held a drug-burning ceremony to destroy 38kg (84lbs) of heroin and opium and 1,400kg of marijuana.

The past week has seen a series of admissions from China about the seriousness of its drug problem. Normally the country plays down reports about drugs and rarely divulges up-to-date information. Last week Guangdong police said they had made China's largest drug haul since 1949, seizing 1,408kg of marijuana and arresting 15 suspected smugglers.

In the first three months of this year, according to figures released last week, Chinese officials seized 1,000kg of heroin and cracked down on nearly 5,000 drug offences. The Vice-Minister of Public Security, Bai Jingfu, said that drug crimes, including trafficking, 'were effectively curbed in the country', something that international experts say is untrue.

A more realistic assessment was given by Zhuo Feng, Deputy Secretary-General of the National Narcotics Control Commision, who said close co-operation by police and customs in China with the international community was needed to fight the drug war.

The number of addicts in China is also rising sharply. China has 250,000 registered drug users, compared to 70,000 in 1988, the Guangming Daily said recently. Western experts believe the number could be much higher.