Trump condemned after claiming 'very powerful death penalty' would reduce drug dealing

'You know what the maximum penalty is in China for that, and it goes very quickly'

Chris Riotta
New York
Monday 10 February 2020 22:42 GMT
Trump slammed after claiming a 'very powerful death penalty' would reduce US drug crimes

Donald Trump has been swiftly condemned after praising countries like China for having a “powerful death penalty” to combat illegal drug dealing, saying he doesn't believe the US "is ready" to adopt a similar process.

Human rights activists slammed the president’s comments after he addressed the nation’s governors in a wide-ranging speech at the White House on Monday and said he was impressed by the way China handles its drug cases.

“Criminal in China for drugs by the way means that’s serious. They’re getting a maximum penalty,” Mr Trump said. “And you know what the maximum penalty is in China for that, and it goes very quickly.”

He added: “It’s interesting, where you have Singapore they have very little drug problem, where you have China they have very little drug problem. States with a very powerful death penalty on drug dealers don’t have a drug problem.”

Garry Kasparov, chairman of the Human Rights Foundation, described the president’s latest comments as “the classic authoritarian line” in a tweet.

“Give the murderers badges and give the thieves cabinet posts, then say crime is solved,” he wrote.

The chairman added: “And a fair trial in a dictatorship is an oxymoron.”

New Jersey Democrat Bill Pascrell Jr also predicted that “not a single Republican in Congress will say a word in objection” to the president’s comments.

Mr Trump appeared to be “casually saying our criminal justice system should more closely resemble ruthless dictatorships like the Chinese communist party”, the congressman said.

Ben Rhodes, a former White House adviser under Barack Obama, also wrote in a tweet: “Maybe we should pay attention to the fact that Trump consistently praises the efficiency of totalitarian systems.”

Mr Trump has previously heaped praise on China for its severe laws surrounding drug offences, saying during a March 2018 rally: “The only way to solve the drug problem is through toughness.”

“When I was in China and other places, by the way, I said, Mr President, do you have a drug problem?” Mr Trump said. “‘No, no, no, we do not.’ I said, Huh. Big country, 1.4 billion people, right. Not much of a drug problem. I said what do you attribute that to? ‘Well, the death penalty.’"

Countries like China and Singapore have both been declared human rights abusers over their execution policies for drug dealers, while organisations like Amnesty International have estimated thousands of executions occur each year as a result of the measures.

Mr Trump formally requested in a 2018 memo that federal prosecutors consider the death penalty for anyone “dealing in extremely large quantities of drugs”.

A 2017 review of incarceration rates nationwide conducted by the Open Philanthropy Project stated: “Tougher sentences hardly deter crime, and that while imprisoning people temporarily stops them from committing crime outside prison walls, it also tends to increase their criminality after release.”

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