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Drug crime rise sparks calls for crackdown
By Qin Chuan (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-04-05 06:16

Rises in drug-related crimes and the number of addicts in the country lead to calls for a strengthened crackdown.

A total of 66,900 suspects were arrested last year for committing drug-related crimes, rising 5.1 per cent over the year before.

And there were 790,000 addicts by the end of 2004, up 6.8 per cent from 2003, said Zhang Xinfeng, vice-minister of public security and vice-director of the National Narcotics Control Commission.

At a meeting of the commission yesterday, Minister of Public Security and Director of the commission Zhou Yongkang called for strengthened efforts to prevent people from becoming addicted, to cut off sources of narcotics both at home and abroad, and to crack down on drug-related crimes.

Last year police solved 98,000 drug-related cases, including the production, trafficking and selling of drugs, up 4.4 per cent from 2003.

Drops in solved cases

But statistics from the commission indicate the number is just half of those in 1997 and 1998, which saw the largest recorded numbers of solved cases.

Officials say the main cause of the drop is the increased fight against drug trafficking throughout the country.

One of the key cases of last year was solved in June, when police acting on a tip-off in Dali, Southwest China's Yunnan Province, seized 501 kilograms of heroin, the largest seizure in a single case last year.

Four suspects were arrested in the cross-border case.

Another major development last year was the offering of a reward for information about five heavyweight drug traffickers, the first time a reward has been publicly offered.

Two of the suspects, 49-year-old Liu Zhaohua and 39-year-old Ma Shunsu, were caught in January and March respectively. Liu was a producer of "ice" and Ma trafficked heroin.

According to Zhang, police seizures of heroin, the drug used by 85.8 per cent of addicts, rose 13.6 per cent to 10.8 tons last year.

An 800 per cent rise in the quantity of ecstasy captured saw the seizure of about 3 million pills, while 160 tons of chemical materials for making narcotics were also intercepted, a 119.8 per cent rise on the previous year.

Meanwhile, the amount of "ice" (methamphetamine) seized by police was down 52.9 per cent to 2.7 tons.

Zhang said that while the consumption of such traditional drugs as opium and heroin is stable, there has been a dramatic rise in the number of abusers of new drugs such as ecstasy and ketamine, a kind of anesthetic.

Abusers of new drugs

Last year these drugs accounted for 9.5 per cent of all drug abusers, while the proportion in 2001 was 2.5 per cent.

Youths, farmers and the jobless remained high risk groups for drug taking, Zhang said.

According to Zhang, the National Development and Reform Commission last year decided to allocate 1 billion yuan (US$120 million) over five years to support the infrastructure of narcotics control.

The commission also put aside an additional 100 million yuan (US$12 million) for work in Southwest China's Yunnan Province, which borders the "golden triangle."

At the same time, the Ministry of Finance promised to increase its subsidy to local control efforts across the country by 500 million yuan (US$60.5 million).

But Zhang admitted the situation for narcotics control in China is still serious.

One reason is that narcotics from abroad, such as the "golden triangle" region to the southwest of China and Afghanistan to the northwest, are increasingly being trafficked into China.

Crimes relating to the production and sales of "ice" and ecstasy in southern regions of the country, such as Guangdong and Fujian provinces, are also significant.

Key joint operations by Chinese and foreign police in 2004

On September 18, Chinese and Japanese police cracked down on an international drug ring.

They captured nine suspects from Hong Kong and the mainland and seized 44 kilograms of "ice," 15 kilograms of ecstasy powder and HK$250,000 (US$32,000).

Between September and October, Chinese and Thai authorities jointly crushed a large drug trafficking gang headed by Liu Gangyi.

Eight suspects were arrested in Southwest China's Yunnan Province and Thailand. Liu was caught in Bangkok in late October.

During the operation, police seized about 463 kilograms of heroin, 14 million yuan (US$1.7 million) of crime-related funds and three vehicles and five motorbikes used for transporting drugs.

On April 27, police in East China's Fujian Province co-operated with Malaysian police and arrested 32 suspects from Malaysia, the Netherlands, the Philippines, the Chinese mainland, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

They also seized more than 22 kilograms of "ice," and 1,970 kilograms of semi-processed "ice." Both sides froze a total of US$2.2 million assets related to the case.

On February 10, co-operation between Chinese and Philippines narcotics control forces led to the seizure of 304 kilograms of "ice" and the arrest of suspect Chen Tianfu in Manila and four more suspects in China. The "ice" was transported to Manila through Laos, Thailand and Singapore.

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