In a lugubrious public spectacle, a Chinese court sentenced 10 people to death before a crowd of thousands at a stadium in the southern city of Lufeng last Friday. Of course, most were convicted of drug-related crimes.
According to a harrowing report in South China Morning Post, they were summarily tried on the spot and immediately taken away for execution. The grim ceremony kicked off a new anti-drug campaign in the People’s Republic of China.
The defendants were brought to the stadium in police vans with sirens blaring, the report said. They stood on the stage awaiting their fate, each attended by four police officers in dark glasses. Posters around the stadium hailed the new crackdown on drugs.
Seven of the 10 faced drug charges, with the others convicted of murder and robbery, the Guardian reports.
Lufeng is a focus of the State Anti-Drug Committee’s new campaign, supposedly because of the high number of cases there. A similar public sentencing took place at the same stadium six months ago, with 18 people convicted of drug crimes. Eight of those were executed straight after the verdicts were delivered.
South China Morning Post recalls one case in 2014, when more than 3,000 paramilitary troops, police and border guards raided a village near Lufeng and seized three metric tons of crystal meth. Nearly 200 villagers were detained.
Although official figures are kept secret, human rights groups believe thousands are executed in China each year, with a high proportion for drug charges.
But there may be other motives behind the crackdown.
Lufeng is one of the most restive cities in China’s Guangdong province, long the scene of labor and peasant unrest. In 2011, Lufeng saw a local uprising, with angry residents ransacking government offices in a protest over land-grabbing by developers. The city has a rep for its badass populace.
A local saying, oft heard during the protests, goes: “In heaven, there is the Thunder God, on earth there is Lufeng.”
We can imagine that Chinese authorities have reasons to want to keep the population generally intimidated.