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China Sees Sharp Rise in Drug Cases
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The number of drug trafficking cases in China almost doubled last year due to the country's increased use as a transit point and a rise in domestic consumption, a top anti-smuggling official said yesterday.

Border police cracked 355 drug smuggling cases last year, a sharp increase of 91.9 percent over 2005. Additionally, a total of 789 kg of drugs were seized, up by 65.5 percent, according to figures released yesterday at a press conference by the Ministry of Public Security.

"More domestic and foreign drug traffickers are transporting drugs to or via China, posing a great threat to our social stability," said Li Wenjian, deputy director of the ministry's anti-smuggling bureau.

The increase in cases is also the result of an intensified police crackdown, he added.

Li dismissed the infamous "Golden Triangle" area in Southeast Asia, saying there is more likelihood of drugs actually coming from the "Golden Crescent" region, which encompasses the mountain valleys of Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.

Figures from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime show that an unprecedented 6,100 tons of opium were harvested in Afghanistan last year, accounting for 92 percent of the global supply.

One of the major domestic drug routes runs through Pakistan to northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, and onward to other Chinese cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou, as well as Russia and Eastern Europe, according to police authorities in Xinjiang. 

Li also said more cases involving "human mules" -- people who ingest heroin in condoms or other plastic bags to smuggle the drug -- have made detection more difficult.

"It's a new tendency (in drug-trafficking)," he said, adding that border police came across about 80 such cases last year, accounting for more than a fifth of the total.

Li said it is difficult to detect drugs concealed inside the human body with the current equipment at customs; therefore, it is usually the experience and vigilance of trained police officers that bring results.

Guangzhou Daily reported that border police at Guangzhou Baiyun Airport found four traffickers with 2.65 kg of heroin inside their stomachs on March 15.

All of the smugglers were West African and took the same flight from Hong Kong to Guangzhou.

The newspaper also reported that three men were found hiding drugs inside themselves at Guangzhou Tianhe Bus Terminal a few days later.

To tackle such cases, Li said customs would be equipped with more advanced facilities this year.

"Suspects will no longer have to go to the hospital for X-rays, as the new machines can detect drugs inside the human body on the spot," he said.

Travelers from high-traffic areas, such as Africa and West Asia, will be under close scrutiny as well.

(China Daily March 28, 2007)

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