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China Admits Growing Narcotics Problem - 2004-07-14

A top narcotics enforcement official in China says the country's drug problem is growing, especially among young, unemployed, and uneducated men. The Chinese official blames an influx of drugs from the nations of the so-called "Golden Triangle" area of Southeast Asia.

Yang Fengrui, deputy secretary general of China's National Narcotics Control Commission, says drug use continues to rise in China each year. He says the biggest problem lies with the growing amounts of heroin and chemical components for methamphetamines, which he says are coming largely from the "Golden Triangle" of Laos, Burma, and Thailand.

The official says heroin continues to be the narcotic of choice for at least 75 percent of the more than one million registered drug addicts in China, and he says 95 percent of it comes from the Golden Triangle. But he says the use of alternative drugs, such as crystal methamphetamine, also known as "ice," is also in the rise.

"We face a severe situation in terms of narcotics control in China," he said.

He says China is not only importing methamphetamines, but illegal laboratories are producing the substance, primarily in some of the southern provinces. He says Chinese-made drugs are making their way across the border into Hong Kong and elsewhere.

Officials say the vast majority of drug users in China are men with less than a middle-school education, and well over half of those are unemployed, often farmers who have lost their lands.

China's typical punishment for drug trafficking is execution. Yang Fengrui defended the practice, which has been criticized by Amnesty International and other human rights groups.

"The Chinese masses applaud giving the death penalty to drug traffickers," he said. "Drug trafficking has severe social consequences and is equal to killing people."

The official said he had no exact figures on how many people are executed each year for drug-related offenses.

China says it is working with its neighbors to boost cooperation in anti-drug efforts. The topic was on the agenda during this week's visit by Burma's Prime Minister to Beijing.

Chinese officials say Chinese and Burmese agents recently destroyed several illegal laboratories that were making drugs for export to China. China says Burma also handed over an unspecified number of traffickers.