Chinese authorities have executed hundreds of people since April in a crime crackdown labeled "Strike Hard" that allows for speeded up trials and broader use of the death penalty.
On Monday and Tuesday alone, authorities executed at least 60 people for drug offences.
Thousands of people attended a rally at a stadium in Kunming, capital of southwestern Yunnan province, where 20 suspected drug traffickers were sentenced to death, then executed at a separate location, a police official said. Executions are usually done by a gunshot to the head.
Officials in Kunming used remote control detonators to ignite 2 tons of confiscated heroin placed in large metal pans and doused with gasoline. State television broadcast the burning live.
Separately on Tuesday, eight people in the central city of Wuhan and eight people on the southern island of Hainan were executed for drug trafficking.
In coastal Fujian province, five Taiwanese citizens were executed Monday for attempting to smuggle crystal methamphetamine to Taiwan.
Eighteen heroin traffickers were also executed Monday in Chongqing, a city in southwestern China, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.
Yunnan authorities also executed Li Shaoju, a citizen of Myanmar, on Monday for smuggling more than 300 pounds of heroin, opium, and morphine from Myanmar to China, newspapers reported.
European Union diplomats in Beijing, monitoring reports in Chinese state-run media, have tallied more than 1,000 executions and many more death sentences in the crackdown on violent and gang-related crime.
"Drug abuse, drug trafficking are indeed very terrible problems of our day," U.N. deputy spokesman Manoel de Almeida e Silva said in New York. But he added that as far as he was aware, a 1998 U.N. convention that sets a legal framework for fighting drug trafficking "does not provide for the application of the death penalty."
China has detained 15,000 suspected drug dealers and seized 2.2 tons of heroin, 1.2 tons of opium, and 2 tons of methamphetamine in the first five months of the year, state media reported.
The number of registered drug addicts in China has risen to 860,000 in 2000 from 681,000 in 1999, according to the Ministry of Public Security.
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