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May 27, 2005 - The Taipei Times (Taiwan)

China Admits Drug War Is Failing

By Associated Press

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Chinese officials issued an unusual appeal to the public yesterday for help fighting drug trafficking, acknowledging in a nationally televised news conference that they have failed to stop surging narcotics abuse despite repeated crackdowns.

Drug smuggling and the difficulty of fighting it are rising as a result of globalization and freer trade, the officials said, citing the seizure this month of 400kg of the party drug ketamine brought in from India via the Middle East.

"Although we've made a lot of achievements, the spread of drug problems remains serious," said Yang Fengrui, secretary-general of the National Narcotics Control Commission. "Heroin use is down in some areas, but the use of new drugs such as ecstasy, marijuana and others is increasing."

Communist Party leaders declared a "People's War on Drugs" last month, Feng said. He appealed to the public to inform on traffickers and to help addicts reform-a rare step by a government that usually says it can handle crime and social problems on its own.

"The situation in the Golden Triangle still does not allow for optimism."

"This 'People's War on Drugs' cannot go ahead without the support of the broad masses," Feng said.

Communist leaders have been increasingly open in recent years about the spreading use of heroin and other drugs. But even by those standards, Feng and other officials at the news conference were strikingly candid about the failure of official efforts to stamp out narcotics abuse.

"Since the beginning of the 1980s, the problem of drugs has been dealt with by the government and the party, but it has never been resolved," Feng said.

Earlier this year, Chinese police announced that two informers split a

reward of 200,000 yuan ( US$24,000 ) - a huge sum by Chinese standards - for a tip that led to the capture of a gang leader accused of making 14 tons of methamphetamine.

Last year, Chinese police arrested 67,000 people on drug charges, seized 10.8 tons of heroin and 2.7 tons of methamphetamines, according to a report distributed at Feng's news conference. Some 273,000 people were sent to compulsory drug treatment centers last year, the report said. They said the number of known addicts rose 6.8 percent last year to 791,000, including 679,000 heroin users.

Experts say the true figures are much higher. In addition, the report said, "addicts of new types of drugs such as ecstasy and ketamine, [used] in entertainment places, are increasing rapidly."

In the case this month, police in the southern province of Guangdong, which borders Hong Kong, seized ketamine, methamphetamines, and more than 1.36 tonnes of drug-making chemicals, said Ji Mengyuan, deputy director of the province's Anti-Narcotics Bureau.

Ji said 22 members of a drug gang led by a Hong Kong resident were arrested and police seized a drug-making laboratory.

Drug smuggling and manufacturing by gangs with ties to Japan, South Korea, Indonesia and the Philippines also is growing, Feng said.

Opium use was widespread in China before the 1949 revolution, with as many as 20 million addicts. The communists stamped it out by the early 1950s, sending addicts to labor camps and executing traffickers. But heroin use surged after social controls were loosened with the start of economic reforms in 1979. The heroin trade is fueled by imports from the "Golden Triangle" of Burma, Laos and northern Thailand that abuts southern China.

"The situation in the Golden Triangle still does not allow for optimism," Feng said.

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