A New Zealand-born Australian man has gone on trial in southern China for attempting to smuggle crystal methamphetamine out of the country.If found guilty, 25-year-old Peter Gardner could be executed.
Mr Gardner was arrested last November in Guangzhou allegedly carrying over 30kg (66lb) of the drug in his luggage.
China has strict drug laws – anyone found carrying more than 50gm of methamphetamine faces a potential death penalty or life in prison.
China carries out more executions than the rest of the world put together, according to Amnesty International, but actual numbers are difficult to verify as China’s government does not release the figures.
New Zealand’s foreign affairs and trade ministry said in a statement to the Dailyreleased that consulate staff in Guangzhou were supporting Mr Gardner and the consul-general would be attending the hearing to observe proceedings.
In a live broadcast of the court proceedings on Thursday, Mr Gardner was heard testifying off-screen that he had made “a really big mistake” and brought “a big shame” to his family.
“I’m really sorry, I really regret it… I have broken the law and there’s no getting out of it,” he said.
He added that he would be willing to cooperate in identifying Chinese drug traffickers, and stated he had no previous drug convictions in Australia and New Zealand, where he holds joint citizenship.
Mr Gardner was stopped at Guangzhou’s airport while attempting to get on a flight to Sydney with two sealed pieces of luggage containing the drugs, said the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
His Australian girlfriend, Kalynda Davis, who was travelling with him at the time, was also detained.
But she was released in December without charge after Chinese officials decided she was not involved.
Mr Gardner’s case follows the high-profile executions of two Australians, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, in Indonesia for drug trafficking.
Last September, Australian officials said several of its citizens were facing the death penalty in China for drugs charges, with a number of them caught in Guangzhou, known as a methamphetamine hub.
China has been waging a crackdown on the illegal drug trade, which has found profitable routes to Australia and other parts of the region.
Authorities have made several high-profile arrests, including minor celebrities such as Jackie Chan’s son Jaycee.
Last year more than 168,000 suspects of narcotics crime were arrested and police seized nearly 70 tonnes of drugs, including about 26 tonnes of methamphetamine, according to state news agency Xinhua..
Australia, meanwhile, has said crystal meth presents the highest risk to Australian communities of any illegal substance.
It says increasing amounts of the drug’s ingredients are being seized on its borders, much of it imported from India and China.