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Tuesday, 5 February, 2002, 07:37 GMT
China 'smashes' heroin ring
By BBC Shanghai correspondent Duncan Hewitt

Chinese police say they have made their largest ever seizure of heroin and arrested 21 people involved in a major smuggling ring.

State media also reported the Burmese authorities had shot dead one of China's most wanted drug traffickers following a joint operation.

China last year pledged to step up co-operation with neighbouring countries in the fight against the drug trade but officials say trafficking remains rampant in border areas.

Police in China's south-western Yunnan province hailed the seizures as a victory for cross-border co-operation.

Gun battle

They said Burmese police involved in a joint operation shot dead drug trafficker Liu Ming during a firefight last week.

Heroin seizure
China made record heroin seizures last year
State media said Liu was responsible for smuggling half-a-tonne of heroin into China over the past eight years. His gang was also found to have amassed an armoury including machineguns and an artillery piece.

His death follows the smashing of another gang smuggling drugs from Burma to Guangdong province near the Hong Kong border.

A routine check on a truck in Yunnan led to the discovery of 673kg (1,480 pounds) of heroin and the arrests of 21 people, 12 of them from Hong Kong.

Rampant trade

State media said the arrests had dealt a blow to the drugs trade between Yunnan and Burma's Golden Triangle region.

But the head of narcotics control in Yunnan told the China Daily newspaper that drug trafficking remained rampant in border areas and only global efforts could stop it.

He said progress had been made in closing some drug-producing laboratories inside the Golden Triangle following a conference in Beijing last year, when China, Burma, Thailand and Laos promised to step up joint action against drugs.

But suspicions remain about Burma's determination to crack down on the lucrative trade.

Its scale was highlighted by figures showing that seizures of heroin in China doubled last year to around 13 tonnes, along with almost five tonnes of the drug ice or meth-amphetamine, which is also regularly smuggled in from Burma.

Chinese police this month launched a six-month campaign which they say will target nightclubs, karaoke bars and other places described as havens for drug dealers.

China officially has 900,000 registered drug users but experts say the real figure is far higher, with heroin, ice and ecstasy widely available.

China arrested 73,000 people for drug-related offences last year.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Duncan Hewitt
"State media said Liu was responsible for smuggling half-a-tonne of heroin into China"
See also:

18 Jan 02 | Asia-Pacific
Eyewitness: Golden Triangle opium fields
09 Jan 02 | Asia-Pacific
Golden Triangle fills opium gap
02 Jun 01 | Asia-Pacific
China holds drugs kingpin
16 Jan 02 | South Asia
Afghanistan bans opium production
04 Oct 01 | South Asia
Analysis: The heroin trail
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