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Hanoi, Beijing Using Executions As "Smack Down" For Cultural History of Corruption

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By John E. Carey
Peace and Freedom
May 29, 2007

China and Vietnam each sentenced people to be executed today.

In China, the villain is the state’s former director of drug review and acceptance. He was found guilty of accepting bribes and approving a drug after almost no testing that ultimately killed ten people. Think of the U.S. Director of the Food and Drug Administration sentenced to death for accepting a bribe to wink at proper testing of a drug.

The execution may also be a signal to the west that the food irregularities which killed people and pets in the west will no longer be tolerated.

In Vietnam, a court sentenced four people to death after finding them guilty of illegal trading and producing ecstasy pills.

The three defendants, including one woman, were charged with having sold more than 10,000 ecstasy pills and several kilograms of other drugs between July 2003 and their arrest in March 2005.

Since the beginning of the year, at least 33 people have been sentenced to death in the communist nation of Vietnam, 24 of them for drug trafficking, according to figures compiled by news outlets from officials and state media. Four people have been executed, including one for drug trafficking.

We are against capital punishment, after a lifetime believing that executions deter heinous crimes. We have concluded that a life sentence without the possibility of parole is the more appropriate and humane sentence. Add to that a growing number of death row inmates cleared after DNA evidence came to the fore.

But, critics will say, the United States allows capital punishment. True. But in the United States no one has been executed for a crime other than murder or conspiracy to commit murder since 1964.

So what is going on in China and Vietnam? Why is the state controlled judicial system in each nation using executions for crimes other than the most heinous such as murder?

Because China and Vietnam both live in a world where corruption of government officials has been so accepted and “normal” for so long that it may be next to impossible to eliminate government corruption in the near term. Both nations are using a kind of “smack down” technique to get everyone’s attention.

The foreign media takes the executions as a signal that China and Vietnam are hell bent for the elimination of corruption and the institution of clean government.

Inside China and Vietnam, the governments hopes the people and those in government get the message that a new era of intolerance is upon them.

In Vietnam, the drug trade is so prevalent that it is pumping billions of dollars into the “economy,” and much of that via pay-offs to police and other officials. This could pose a serious threat to Vietnam’s tourist and other industry. So it is in the government’s best interest to at least put up the façade of tough enforcement.

But executions for trading in drugs or accepting bribes seems extreme.

Expect strong condemnation from international watchdogs like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.

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John E. Carey is the former president of International Defense Consultants, Inc.
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