China, US bust drug gang

▶ Link­ing fentanyl fight with trade war ‘dis­re­spects lives’

Global Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Zhao Yusha and Fan Lingzhi in Xingtai, Xu Keyue in Bei­jing

Hand­ing heavy sen­tences to fentanyl ped­dlers and man­u­fac­tur­ers sig­nals a be­nign co­op­er­a­tion be­tween China and the US on a crack­down on such crimes. But link­ing it to the trade deal dis­re­spects lives, an of­fi­cial said.

The leader of a Chi­nese fentanyl traf­fick­ing gang, sur­named Liu, was sen­tenced to death with a two-year re­prieve by the Xingtai In­ter­me­di­ate Peo­ple’s Court in North China’s He­bei Prov­ince on Thurs­day. The gang is be­lieved to have tar­geted in­ter­na­tional clients, in­clud­ing US ones.

Two of Liu’s ac­com­plices were given life sen­tences.

This was the first fentanyl smug­gling case Bei­jing and Wash­ing­ton jointly cracked down on.

Dur­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, Chi­nese and

US law en­force­ment agen­cies fre­quently ex­changed in­for­ma­tion, and China suc­cess­fully traced the group thanks to tips from the US. Af­ter three months’ hard work and tens of thou­sands of miles trav­eled, China fi­nally ar­rested more than 20 sus­pects, con­fis­cated 11.9 kilo­grams of fentanyl and 19.1 kilo­grams of al­pra­zo­lam, among other drugs.

Yu Haibin, deputy di­rec­tor at the China Na­tional Nar­cotics

Con­trol Com­mis­sion (NNCC), said that the US first in­formed China that a Chi­nese cit­i­zen named “Dianna” was in­volved in fentanyl smug­gling to the US.

But the US pro­vided only a phone num­ber and other mi­nor leads on “Diana.”

How­ever, China man­aged to iden­tify the or­ga­nizer of the crime ring, Yu said.

Austin Moore, a US Home­land Se­cu­rity Depart­ment at­taché to China, said the case was “an im­por­tant step” of col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween Chi­nese and US in­ves­ti­ga­tors across in­ter­na­tional bor­ders.

Yu said the case was one of three fentanyl smug­gling cases Chi­nese and US in­ves­ti­ga­tors worked on.

The other two cases are still be­ing in­ves­ti­gated, and still an­other is close to be­ing solved, said Yu, who promised to share more de­tail when the cases are closed.

Yu said the timely ex­change of in­for­ma­tion, ef­fec­tive co­op­er­a­tion and mu­tual re­spect for the le­gal sys­tem of the other coun­try was cru­cial to the suc­cess­ful co­op­er­a­tion.

Ex­perts said the rare joint ef­fort be­tween China and the US to crack down on the ad­di­tive drug that has cost lives in the US, in­jected lim­ited op­ti­mism for con­struc­tive col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween the two coun­tries amid a bit­ter trade war.

The suc­cess­ful ex­am­ple also shows that Bei­jing and Wash­ing­ton, de­spite many dif­fer­ences, can also join hands in solv­ing dilem­mas and show­case a good ex­am­ple of co­op­er­a­tion to the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity, Diao Dam­ing, a US stud­ies ex­pert at Ren­min Uni­ver­sity of China told the

Global Times on Thurs­day.

“Law en­force­ment usu­ally is a tough field for bi­lat­eral co­op­er­a­tion. The two coun­tries’ suc­cess­ful joint work this time sheds light on fu­ture co­op­er­a­tion,” he said.

Chi­nese ob­servers also said since the two coun­tries have made sub­stan­tial im­prove­ment re­cently, such joint co­op­er­a­tive cases would shed light on and cre­ate a be­nign en­vi­ron­ment for the up­com­ing trade con­sul­ta­tions.

In Oc­to­ber, Geng Shuang, spokesper­son of China’s For­eign Min­istry, quoted the US side as say­ing that both sides reached a sub­stan­tial phase one agree­ment in trade ne­go­ti­a­tions.

Not woo­ing the US

How­ever, some for­eign me­dia have been mis­in­ter­pret­ing the ges­ture as a way to con­vince or woo the US to set­tle trade ne­go­ti­a­tions.

They cast doubts that the tim­ing of the an­nounce­ment of the case, af­ter the phase one trade agree­ment, shows China is ea­ger to set­tle a deal.

Yu said that the case fol­lowed strict pro­ce­dures, which in­volved con­sid­er­able work in gath­er­ing ev­i­dence and go­ing to trial.

China men­tioned the case at a press con­fer­ence in Au­gust 2018, and the Chi­nese spe­cial task force went to the US to get ev­i­dence, Yu said.

“Com­bat­ing drug-re­lated crimes is with­out bor­ders,” said Yu, not­ing that any move to politi­cize or link China’s ef­forts to reg­u­late fentanyl with trade ne­go­ti­a­tions dis­re­spects lives.

Ex­perts said that on the con­trary, the US is the one that is anx­ious, and its slow econ­omy and bruise from the trade war with China makes it ea­ger to set­tle for a deal with China.

Fight­ing drug-re­lated crimes is a con­sis­tent task of the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment, and China’s tough stance against drugs is praised world­wide, they noted.

Diao said link­ing fentanyl with the trade ne­go­ti­a­tions shows the US was try­ing to use it as a bar­gain­ing chip.

The two is­sues have noth­ing to do with each other, and the US un­der­stands China’s de­ter­mi­na­tion to crack down on fentanyl prob­lems, he said, not­ing that link­ing the two is­sues shows the US is run­ning out of ways to pres­sure China.

Liu Yue­jin, deputy di­rec­tor of the Na­tional Nar­cotics Con­trol Com­mis­sion, said in Septem­ber that al­though China had been work­ing closely with the US on curb­ing the il­licit flow of the sub­stance, such ef­forts were “to­tally ir­rel­e­vant” to the trade ne­go­ti­a­tions and the two is­sues “should not be mixed to­gether.”

Yu said that there’s no ev­i­dence to sup­port the ac­cu­sa­tion that China is the ma­jor source of US fentanyl sub­stances. The facts show that the US opi­oid cri­sis is a re­sult of its huge do­mes­tic de­mand and loose su­per­vi­sion.

Crack­ing down on fentanyl can­not be solved sin­gle­hand­edly by any coun­try. China is will­ing to co­op­er­ate with other coun­tries to solve the world­wide prob­lem, Yu said.

US law en­force­ment depart­ments re­ported that from Oc­to­ber 2018 to March 2019, 536 kilo­grams of fentanyl sub­stances were seized and only 5 kilo­grams came from China.

Au­thor­i­ties made 229 fentanyl busts dur­ing that pe­riod, and only 17 in­volved Chi­nese smug­glers, NNCC Records show.

Photo: Zhao Yusha/GT

A se­cu­rity guard stands at the en­trance to the Xingtai In­ter­me­di­ate Peo­ple’s Court in North China’s He­bei Prov­ince on Thurs­day.

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