Trump praises death penalty for Chinese fentanyl dealers

'Could be a game changer,' president said

CNN

(CNN) - President Donald Trump on Wednesday praised the potential for capital punishment in China against "distributors and pushers" of fentanyl -- an opioid 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine.

"One of the very exciting things to come out of my meeting with President Xi of China is his promise to me to criminalize the sale of deadly Fentanyl coming into the United States. It will now be considered a 'controlled substance.' This could be a game changer on what is [...] considered to be the worst and most dangerous, addictive and deadly substance of them all," Trump tweeted.

"Last year over 77,000 people died from Fentanyl. If China cracks down on this 'horror drug,' using the Death Penalty for distributors and pushers, the results will be incredible!" he added.

In 2017, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the number of total drug overdose deaths was 70,327. According to the statistics, 47,600 people died from any opioid and 28,466 people died from synthetic opioids other than methadone -- which includes fentanyl.

During the G20 summit in Buenos Aires last week, Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to reclassify fentanyl as a "controlled substance," which means individuals in China who sell fentanyl to the US "will be subject to China's maximum penalty under the law," according to a statement from the White House.

The prevention of opioid abuse the US has been a priority of the President's since his presidential campaign, and the interdiction of synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl, coming into the US from Chinese suppliers through the mail has been a major initiative the Trump administration has attempted to tackle.

According to the Cornell Center on the Death Penalty Worldwide, drug trafficking and smuggling of controlled substances are punishable by death in China.

This isn't the first time Trump has advocated for exercising the death penalty against drug traffickers. In March, Trump officially proposed imposing the death penalty for certain drug dealers, arguing that the federal government is "wasting our time" if it isn't willing to put some traffickers to death.

"If we don't get tough on the drug dealers, we are wasting our time," Trump told an audience in Manchester, New Hampshire. "And that toughness includes the death penalty."

Trump went on to say that dealers "will kill thousands of people during their lifetime" but won't be punished for the carnage they cause. He said the punishment would be used against the "big pushers, the ones who are really killing people."

At the time, the call for capital punishment immediately drew condemnation from treatment advocates, law enforcement officials and civil liberty organizations.

Trump has also reportedly praised the use of the death penalty against drug dealers in Singapore, China and the Philippines.

And according to a leaked transcript of a call with Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte last year, Trump told Duterte he was doing a good job fighting the country's illegal drug epidemic, despite concerns that the Filipino government has effectively sanctioned extrajudicial killings in the name of combating the drug problem.

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