'Golden Crescent' drug plagues China's northwest

Updated: 2007-09-01 17:23

Facing a growing threat of drugs from the "Golden Crescent", China's northwest border region has been plagued with problems like increased AIDS cases and drug-related crimes.

Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region bordering eight Asian countries has become the main passage in recently years for the influx of drugs from the Golden Crescent region, which encompasses the mountain valleys of Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Xinjiang regional police cracked 13 drug trafficking cases involving 53.1 kg of heroin from the Golden Crescent region in 2006, nearly three times the number of such cases in the previous year, according to the region's public security department.

While drug users keep sharing needles, more HIV/AIDS cases were reported in the region.

Xiaohai, a 21-year-old young man living in Yining city, never wears short sleeves even it is very hot, because his arms are covered with pinpricks as a result of drug injection.

He began to use drugs out of curiosity at the age of 19, and in two years he became an addict and AIDS patient of a broken family.

"It ruined my life," said Xiaohai.

"I have spent the last coin of my family to buy drugs. Since I am infected with HIV, I have no dream, no future, and even don't know what to do the next minute," he said.

His mother died of illness for lack of money and his father chose to work in another city to stay away from him. Xiaohai had to fool around with other drug users every day.

In a bid to change his life, Xiaohai began to pay regular visits to a local methadone clinic to treat drug addiction.

The family's sad story is replicated by many in Xinjiang. With a population of around 20 million, Xinjiang has the fourth largest number of HIV/AIDS-infected people in the Chinese mainland with 18,209 cases of HIV infections officially reported by the end of 2006, most of which were found in the capital city Urumqi.

Besides the rise of AIDS cases, drug-related crimes also increased greatly in the region in recent years.

The region witnessed a surge in juvenile delinquency with adolescents making up 23 percent of the 408 offenders seized in the first half of last year, up from 19.5 percent in 2005 and 14.2 percent in 2000.

Experts with the Xinjiang women's federation attributed the rising juvenile delinquency rates to drugs, Internet addiction and a lack of family love, among others.

The Xinjiang regional government has stepped up the fight against drug-related problems. It has opened needle exchange programs and methadone clinics in 15 cities and prefectures and a dozen of other places.

To combat trafficking from the Golden Crescent region, China has beefed up border and airport checks in Xinjiang, Beijing, Shanghai and Guangdong.

The "Golden Triangle" in the northern region of Myanmar is still the main source of drugs and poses the biggest menace to China. However, there is a growing threat of drug trafficking from the Golden Crescent region of central Asia, especially Afghanistan, said Liu Yuejin, deputy director of the anti-narcotics bureau of the Ministry of Public Security.

China invested 110 million yuan (US$14.5 million) last year to improve the anti-drug system in police, border, railway, aviation, customs and postal departments, according to Liu.

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