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China Worried About Illegal Drugs During Olympics


China says it will step up drug enforcement efforts during the Olympic Games in Beijing in August. Meanwhile, Chinese officials are expressing alarm about the opium traffic from neighboring Afghanistan, the country that has become the world's leading producer of the drug. Stephanie Ho reports from Beijing.

One of China's top drug-fighting officials, Yang Fengrui, says he is concerned more foreigners in China during the Olympics could mean more illegal narcotics.

"In order to ensure the security of the Olympic games, and to host a green Olympic games and a drug-free Olympic games, the central government has instructed the law enforcement departments to do a lot about drug control during the Olympic games, in order to curb the inflow of drugs from overseas," said Yang.

Yang wears two hats. He is the director general of the Ministry of Public Security's Narcotics Control Bureau. He is also the permanent deputy secretary general of the newly-created China National Narcotics Control Commission, an agency created by a law that went into effect June 1.

The Chinese official says another issue of concern is the effort to smuggle heroin through China. He says the heroin supply out of southeast Asia's Golden Triangle region -- made up of Burma, Laos and Thailand -- has decreased significantly. At the same time, he points to a relatively new area of opium production, the so-called Golden Crescent, an area that straddles Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran.

Chinese authorities recently foiled one case involving 50 kilograms of heroin and 30 carpets imported from Afghanistan and Pakistan. Officials say smugglers had injected the heroin into flexible plastic tubes, one to two millimeters in diameter, and then wrapped the tubes into colorful fibers that were woven into the carpets.

Yang says the Chinese government has taken special measures to deal with the threat of drugs from Afghanistan, which produces more than 90 percent of the world's supply of opium.

"First, at the border areas and related high-risk areas, we have strengthened efforts to block the drug sources," Yang said. "And, we have also established checkpoints and inspection stations on the road routes, land routes, sea routes and air routes, and also mail routes, to maximize our ability to inspect and block drug sources."

Yang acknowledges there has been what he describes as a "very little amount" of opium poppy cultivation in China, in eastern Fujian Province, in western Gansu Province and in northeastern Heilongjiang Province. He says Chinese authorities use satellite pictures to detect the illegal crop and have been able to take immediate action to eradicate the problem.

Yang also says a small number of Chinese families in what he describes as "the border areas of cities," also grow opium poppies, but he says it is only because they enjoy the beautiful flowers.

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