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  1. Alfa
    CHINA DEFENDS DEATH PENALTY FOR TRAFFICKERS

    Associated Press

    BEJING (AP) -- A top Chinese anti-drug official on Wednesday defended his
    country's frequent use of the death penalty against drug traffickers amid
    stepped-up efforts to control growing narcotics use.

    The comments by an official of the National Narcotics Control Commission
    follow appeals by human rights groups for China, which executes hundreds of
    traffickers a year, to abandon the death penalty.

    China had more than one million users of illegal drugs last year, up five
    per cent from 2002, said Yang Fengrui, the commission's deputy secretary
    general.

    The government hopes to rehabilitate drug users so they can "return to
    society" but has no qualms about "severe punishment" for criminals, Yang
    said at a news conference.

    "The Chinese masses applaud giving the death penalty to drug traffickers,"
    he said. "Drug trafficking has severe social consequences. It's equal to
    killing people."

    Yang said he had no exact figures on the numbers of drug traffickers
    executed each year.

    Amnesty appealed to China last month to abandon the death penalty for drug
    cases. It said there was no evidence that death was a more effective
    deterrent than other punishments.

    China accounted for more than two-thirds of the world's reported executions
    last year, putting to death at least 726 people, according to the human
    rights group Amnesty International. It wasn't clear how many of those were
    drug cases.

    Last month, Chinese authorities executed at least 28 people on drug charges
    to mark International Anti-Drug Day.

    Among China's drug users, 60 per cent are laid-off workers and farmers who
    have lost their land, Yang said.

    Unemployment is rising in China as the government forces state industries
    to become profitable.

    About 85 per cent of China's drug users are men, Yang said.

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