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Monday, 4 February, 2002, 11:23 GMT
'Snakehead' boss arrested in China
Chinese immigrants detained
People smuggling is a lucrative business
By BBC Shanghai correspondent Duncan Hewitt

Police in southern China's Fujian province say they have arrested one of the region's most wanted people smugglers or snakeheads.

Lorry where 58 migrants suffocated
Fifty-eight migrants died in the back of a lorry in Dover 18 months ago
State media said police arrested a man identified only by his surname, Wang, as he was attempting to smuggle 60 people from north-east China to Japan last month.

The man is reported to have helped almost 400 Chinese illegal immigrants in four groups get to Japan last year.

Police said he was just one of 10 gang leaders being sought in one town - not far from the home village of the 58 people who were found dead in a truck at Dover in the UK 18 months ago.

Reports said he was wanted by police in the Fuqing district of Fujian province, the area just south of the town of ChangLe, home to many of those who died at Dover.

Despite the international outrage which greeted the Dover deaths, there seems to have been no let-up in the activities of China's people smugglers.

Stowaway tragedies

China has pledged to co-operate with the international community, and to take tougher measures to control the exodus.

Dangerous trade
19 people concealed inside metal container caught in Shenzhen last month
25 suffocate in fishing boat en route to South Korea last October
58 people found dead in Dover truck 18 months ago
Police in Fujian province told the BBC 500 snakeheads were arrested in the area last year; and a number of traffickers were recently jailed for up to 15 years.

Yet there still seems to be no shortage of citizens seeking work abroad - or of people willing to organise the trade.

Last month, police in the southern town of Shenzhen caught 19 stowaways concealed inside a metal container being loaded onto a ship bound for the United States.

Such methods continue to bring tragedies - last October 25 people suffocated in the storage hold of a fishing boat en route from China to South Korea.

Smugglers have also used fake business delegations and tour groups as a way of beating immigration controls.

See also:

02 Apr 01 | Asia-Pacific
Chinese gangs' cruel trade
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