Why China is unforgiving to drug peddlers
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2011-04-07
Lost in the substandard broadcast media coverage of the executions of three Filipino drug mules in China are the more important perspectives to the drug problem as it affects both the Philippines and China. What dominated the March 30 broadcast media coverage was the melodrama.

According to Niklas Swan-strom, Program Director of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute and Silk Road Studies Program which is heavily supported by the Office of the Swedish National Drug Policy Coordinator and the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “internal conflicts and external military threats are no longer the only national security challenges facing nation states. “Soft” security threats have come to dominate current affairs as well.”

He adds: “the threat from the narcotics trade is increasingly proving itself to be an extremely serious one. Transnational drug trafficking threatens to throw many states into deep trouble. In extreme cases, the drug trade has the potential to exercise full control over state functions, through the creation of so called narco-states.”

Swanstrom described the drug problem of China: “The narcotics problem of China is age-old and peaked during the Opium Wars, when China fought against the British over the sale of opium to its population.” The peak of the Chinese addiction to narcotics was in 1931 when an estimated 20 percent of the population was hooked and about 90 percent of these (72 million) were using opium.

It took Mao Zedong and the Communists to eradicate the narcotics problem and this was achieved, per Swanstrom, by “some heavy-handed measures in the form of punishments, executions and effective closure of borders from the 1950s onwards.” However, the reopening of China under the enlightened stewardship of Deng Xiao Ping unintentionally opened up the entry of narcotics. According to Swanstrom, China today faces its worst drug problem since 1931. The official estimate, as of 2003, is around one million users although the real figure could be over ten times higher.

China’s great fear of the drug problem has to be appreciated within the historical context of the Opium Wars. The Opium Wars triggered over a century of Chinese Calvary.

By 1830, the British had become a major drug trader in the world. The British East India Company grew the opium in India and shipped this to China via Canton in exchange for tea and other goods. When Imperial China realized the growing drug menace, they attempted to stop the trade and that triggered the Opium Wars in November 1839.

The Chinese weaponry was no match against that of the British. China was routed. A humiliated Imperial China was forced to sign the onerous 1842 Treaty of Nanking. Among the one-sided features of the Treaty of Nanking were, as follows:

1. The British were given extraterritoriality — British law applied to British nationals in China.

2. Previous tribute paid to the Imperial administration was waived and the trade was expanded to now cover five ports.

3. Restrictions on volume of British trade were lifted and as a consequence the China drug problem worsened.

From November 1839, when the Opium War broke out, China underwent hell on earth for over a century. The Boxer Rebellion led to the fall of the Ching Dynasty. Dr. Sun Yat Sen’s Double Ten revolution followed and after it came the unstable era of the Chinese warlords. China had a civil war between the Nationalists and the Communists and in between the civil war came the Japanese occupation. Of course, the Cultural Revolution launched by Mao was another national nightmare for the Chinese people.

Unlike us Filipinos who cannot even remember yesterday, as my friend Peter Wallace described our national historical amnesia — the Chinese are very conscious of their bitter history. Expect the Chinese administrators to look at drug addiction as more than just a social problem. They will remember the Opium Wars and how drugs could lead to a serious national security threat.

If the Chinese were ruthless in dealing with the 1989 Tiananmen Square protesters — expect them to be just as determined to execute anyone who attempts to promote banned drugs in China. When you consider Chinese thinking, Sally Ordinario-Villanueva, Ramon Credo and Elizabeth Batain had only two chances — none and nil — not to be executed. If Filipinos who are lured by the big profits of the illegal trade do not learn from them, they’ll likely also suffer the same fate.

Rather than focus on the melodramatic moments of wailing, ranting and weeping relatives of Filipinos facing execution for serious crimes committed overseas — our broadcast media should enlighten our people on how to avoid a similar bitter fate. Over six hours live coverage of wailing, ranting and weeping relatives of the three executed Filipino drug mules last March 30 hardly enlightened other potential drug pushers out there.

When CNN and BBC cover other similar executions, you’ll hardly see any of this melodrama that ABS-CBN passes off as news. That’s editorial judgment and good taste. They know just how much wailing, ranting and weeping to show on television. They know that there are more important things that deserve media coverage than the demonstration of emotions.

It’s deplorable that media here are unable to bridge the Information Gap. Wittingly or unwittingly, our media also worsen the damaged culture.

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