Frontier police in East China's Fujian Province acted swiftly to curb illegal emigration since a nationwide campaign against human smuggling began April 1.
By June 20, the local frontier defence authorities had foiled more than 30 attempts at people-smuggling, seizing some 350 stowaways and over 200 organizers, including snakeheads, who were in charge of transporting the stowaways.
Meanwhile, the total number of stowaway cases in the nation has dropped drastically compared with previous years, said Guo Xiqin, deputy director of the Bureau of Frontier Administration of the Ministry of Public Security (MPS), during a recent visit to the coastal province.
Chinese frontier police have dealt with 159 cases and have seized 578 stowaways and 163 snakeheads, MPS' latest statistics indicate.
Making the trip to Fujian with Guo, by invitation from the MPS, were a batch of emigration diplomats from the Australian, South Korean and the American embassies in China. Fujian was once one of the major sources of smuggled humans.
In order to effectively crack down on human smuggling, the MPS has divided the whole nation into two parts: In the south, anti-stowaway efforts were charged to Fujian and other coastal regions in order to prevent stowaways from stealing away by sea.
Public-security departments and frontier police at all levels in Fujian have racked their brains to devise ways to arrest stowaways and snakeheads, officials said.
In one instance, after months of pursuit, frontier police in Fuzhou on April 11 ambushed a notorious snakehead surnamed Yu who had organized and transported stowaways many times.
Fujian's frontier police also strengthened co-ordination with police from other provinces.
On April 13 and May 21, Fuzhou frontier police broke up two attempts to smuggle humans with the help of police from Tianjin and Hebei. Police seized 25 stowaways and 38 stowaways respectively.
In the north, frontier police focused their efforts on potential stowaways who seek to be smuggled into Japan and South Korea by sea.
On June 12, frontier police at the Yantai Airport in East China's Shandong Province stopped a group of 8 soccer fans who were flying to South Korea to watch the World Cup matches.
After investigation, police found out the "soccer fans'' were really stowaways because they knew little about football. The stowaways, who came from Northeast China, confessed that each of them had paid 30,000-60,000 yuan (US$3,600-7,200) to the snakeheads.
Statistics indicate that public security departments arrested a total of 9,465 stowaways in 2001, an 18 per cent decrease when compared with the previous year. Police also arrested 1,405 smugglers, of whom 229 were convicted.
Chinese laws provide prison sentences from 2-7 years for the stowaway organizers, but the snakeheads could face more severe punishments depending on the seriousness of their crimes.
Busted stowaways can be fined 1,000-5,000 yuan (US$120-600).
(China Daily June 22, 2002)