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China executes Filipino drug trafficker, draws attention to Chinese drug problem

China, the world’s most prolific executioner, put a Filipino drug trafficker to death Thursday despite an appeal from the Philippine president.

Supporters of a Filipino convicted of drug trafficking in China offer candles as they hold a prayer vigil in Manila December 7. The 35-year old convict was executed on December 8, after the promulgation of his sentence at the Guilin Intermediate Court, local media reported.

Cheryl Ravelo/Reuters

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China executed a Filipino drug mule on Thursday, ignoring a last minute mercy plea by Philippines President Benigno Aquino.

The man, who was not identified, had been caught at the airport of the southern city of Guilin in 2008, carrying 1.5 kilograms of heroin from Malaysia. Smuggling more than 50 grams of heroin carries the death penalty in China.

The execution drew fresh attention to China’s growing drug problem. The number of officially registered addicts has doubled over the past decade to 1.5 million, according to police figures, and that is only the tip of the iceberg. Experts say the real number of addicts is likely to be at least 7.5 million.

Most alarming, drug policy experts say, is the rapidly rising popularity of amphetamine type stimulants such as methamphetamine, ecstasy and ketamine, which appeal particularly to young people under 25.

“Almost all new addicts appear to be addicted to synthetic drugs,” says Xia Guomei, a researcher at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences. “They are younger and more affluent than traditional heroin addicts.” 

About two thirds of Chinese drug addicts, however, still use heroin; China, which borders the two largest opium and heroin producing countries in the world – Afghanistan and Myanmar – has become not just a transit route to other international drug markets, but a consumption center itself.

China has become “an important nexus in the narcotics trade, both as a consumer, as a transit route, and a source for the export of precursor chemicals” to Myanmar and Afghanistan, according to a 2006 paper by Niklas Swanstrom, a security expert at Uppsala university in Sweden.

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