-- Twelve people convicted of murder, robbery and drug-related crimes were paraded in a “sentencing rally” this weekend in China. Their families were on hand to witness the spectacle, held at a sports stadium, and residents were invited by the court to attend. Ten of the 12 were executed, according to local media reports.
Seven of the 10 executed were charged with drug dealing. The city of Lufeng in Guangdong, China, has been dubbed the "City of Ice” with a reputation as a hotbed for illegal drug production.
According to videos of the trial posted on social media by state-run media, the death row inmates, flanked by multiple police officers and mourning family members, were brought onto a small platform temporarily set up on running tracks inside the stadium to have their sentences read in front of hundreds, if not thousands, of onlookers, some of whom were reportedly students.
“The Chinese authorities have once again displayed a blatant disregard for human life and dignity,” tweeted William Nee, a researcher at Amnesty International, who called the public trial a “sentencing rally.”
While it is rare for modern-day China to have public-sentencing rallies like this, it is not an isolated case for Lufeng. On June 26, 13 people convicted of drug-related crimes were sentenced to death in the same stadium.
The public trials and sentencing come at a time when China is cracking down on synthetic drugs. According to Xinhua, the country’s official news agency, more than a third of the methamphetamine consumed in China is made in this region. President Trump has called on China to "do something" about its drug crisis.
In the U.S., nearly 64,000 people overdosed on opioids in 2016, making it the deadliest drug crisis in American history.
But many doubt if public trials are an effective, or even humane, warning to potential criminals.
“As many other countries have shown, the war on drugs more often than not ends in failure,” Amnesty International’s Nee told ABC News. “China should figure out more effective ways to deal with illegal drugs without perpetuating a needless and tragic cycle of violence."
Still, others in the country welcome the hard-line stance.
China doesn’t release death penalty records and considers the matter a state secret, but NGOs estimate that about 2,000 death sentences were carried out last year. All death sentences have to be reviewed and approved by the Supreme People’s Court.