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China cracks down on drug crimes targeting minors

By YANG ZEKUN | | Updated: 2024-06-25 20:30
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China's Supreme People's Court announced a nationwide effort to intensify penalties for drug crimes targeting minors and those involving minors themselves.

The SPC highlighted a disturbing trend: a significant increase in cases involving minors selling or transporting drugs. Courts across China handled 301 such cases between January and May 2024, a notable rise compared to previous periods.

The crackdown extends beyond traditional narcotics. Li Ruiyi, chief judge of the No 5 Criminal Adjudication Tribunal at the SPC, emphasized severe punishments for crimes like rape and robbery committed using narcotic and psychotropic medications, which exploit their sedative and anesthetic properties.

While positive strides have been made, challenges remain. Nationwide courts concluded first-instance trials for 33,401 drug-related cases in 2023, with judgments taking effect for 49,603 defendants. These figures represent year-on-year decreases, but follow a historical peak in 2015.

However, Li cautioned against complacency. "There's a growing trend of abusing addictive substances like narcotic and psychotropic medications, particularly among younger demographics," he explained. "These substances are often smuggled in, leaked from medical institutions, or processed illegally."

Li revealed concerning tactics employed by criminals. "They leverage the internet for contact, logistics for delivery, and electronic payment platforms for transactions, effectively separating the participants, money, and drugs," he said. "This makes it more challenging for law enforcement."

The misuse of these medications has also led to a rise in secondary crimes like rape and robbery. Ouyang Nanping, deputy chief judge of the tribunal, emphasized the importance of prevention. "We must address the root causes," he said, "Prevention is far more crucial than simply cracking down on crimes after they occur."

The courts are actively collaborating with relevant departments. "We've issued judicial recommendations urging them to plug loopholes and establish robust institutional safeguards to prevent the loss and mishandling of addictive substances," Ouyang explained.

A case from Yinan County People's Court in Shandong province exemplifies this approach. Judges discovered that underage defendants and victims were purchasing large quantities of dextromethorphan (an antitussive medication) without prescriptions from local pharmacies. The court's subsequent recommendations prompted corrective actions from local authorities, significantly improving regulations.

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