Skip to main content
Amnesty International UK
Log in

China: Annual Execution Spree Looms on UN Anti-Drugs Day

“We have seen an annual spree of executions in China in the run-up to UN International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking in previous years” said Amnesty International. “Yet no convincing evidence has ever been produced that the death penalty deters would-be traffickers and users more effectively than any other punishment.”

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. Already this year three alleged drug traffickers from Hong Kong have been executed, in the southern city of Shenzhen on 11 June.

“The Chinese government should immediately halt these executions and review all future use of the death penalty,” said Amnesty International.

The United Nations has never given any endorsement to the use of the death penalty for drug-related offences, and the UN Special Rapporteur on Summary or Arbitrary Executions has called on China to end the use of the death penalty for drug trafficking.

China faces an extremely serious and growing drugs problem. It borders two of the world’s largest opium-producing areas, the ‘Golden Triangle’ and Afghanistan. There are 1.05 million registered drug addicts in China, and many more are thought to choose not to register. Possession of five kilos of cannabis resin, one kilo of heroin or 50g of cocaine can result in the death penalty being passed.

In the week leading up to 26 June, UN Anti-Drugs Day and government measures to tackle drug crime are publicised in the Chinese media. Despite this extra reporting of death sentences, drug-related crime, drug use, and amounts of drugs seized by customs remain at a high level or actually rising.


According to China’s Drug Control Bureau, mainland police seized 9.53 tonnes of heroin in 2003, up 2.6 percent from 2002. In 2003 5.8 tons of ‘ice’, or methamphetamine hydrochloride, was seized, up from 4.8 tons in 2001.

The Chinese National Narcotics Control Commission has stated new addicts grew at an average rate of 13% over the last five years.

View latest press releases