China: thousands of onlookers as 10 people are sentenced to death in sports stadium

Seven of the executed 10 were convicted of drug-related crimes, whilst others were found guilty of robbery and murder

(Photo: Yahoo News Singapore)
(Photo: Yahoo News Singapore)

A court in China sentenced 10 people to death, mostly due to drug-related crimes, in front of thousands of onlookers, before taking them away for execution.

The 10 were executed immediately after the sentencing in Lufeng, in the southern Guangdong province, 160km from Hong Kong, according to state-run media.

Seven of the executed 10 were convicted of drug-related crimes, whilst others were found guilty of robbery and murder.

Four days prior to the event, local residents were invited to attend the sentencing in an official notice, which was circulated on social media.

The accused were brought to the stadium in police trucks with blaring sirens, each flanked by four officers in sunglasses.

They were brought one by one to a small platform, set up on what is usually a running track to have their sentences read to the crowd, according to the video of the trial.

Thousands watched the spectacle, with some reports claiming that students in their uniforms also attended.

People stood on their seats, whilst others crowded onto the centre of the field, some talking or smoking and others with their mobile phones raised to record the event.

China executes more every year than the rest of the world combined, though the exact figure is not published and considered to be a state secret.

Last year, around 2,000 death sentences were carried, according to estimates by the Dui Hua Foundation, a human rights NGO based in the US.

China maintained the death penalty of non-violent offences, like economic crimes and drug trafficking.

However, public trials in China are rare. The country’s justice system notoriously favours prosecutors and Chinese courts have a 99.9% conviction rate. The trend to reintroduce open-air sentencing trials is reminiscent of the early days of the People’s Republic, when capitalists and landowners were publicly denounced.

The most recent public sentencing and subsequent executions were not a first for Lufeng. Eight people were sentenced to death for drug crimes and summarily executed five months ago in a similar public trial, according to state media.

The town was the site of a large drug bust in 2014, when 3,000 police descended on Lufeng and arrested 182 people. Police confiscated three tonnes of crystal meth, and authorities at the time said the area was responsible for producing a third of China’s meth.

Although open-air sentencing hearings are rare in China, they have been revived in recent years in some areas, most notably for cases of alleged terrorism in the country’s far western region of Xinjiang.

A crowd of 7,000 watched as 55 suspects were sentenced in 2014, where at least one person was sentenced to death.