Border police battle drug influx from Golden Triangle
Chinese narcotics control authorities warn that China is expected to see more widespread drug abuse in the next few years, partly because of the restive situation in two of the world's top drug exporting countries, Myanmar and Afghanistan.
Figures show that drugs confiscated in Yunnan province, which borders Myanmar, have risen five-fold over the past year.
China has one of the strictest policies in the world when it comes to drugs, but that does not mean drugs are not a problem.
Latest police figures show that over the past seven years, the number of Chinese people taking drugs has risen by 40 percent each year, and that now one out of every hundred Chinese is a drug user.
More alarmingly, they also show that an overwhelming 90 percent of the drugs in China come from here, the world's largest drug source right at China's doorstep.
Zhang Genquan is one of the most experienced policemen in a small border town called Tengchong, along the Mekong River. He says in just the past 15 days, police in this town alone have confiscated a total of over 130 kilos of drugs.
It takes just a few minutes drive from the town center to the dangerous hotspot. Just across the border lies Myanmar and huge amounts of opium. Traffickers smuggle the drug into China using twisting mountain roads.
Lured by profit, traffickers do not shy away from violence if someone stands in their way. And with Chinese police determined to keep them out of China a gunfight can erupt at any time.
"Although Myanmar has been trying to crack down against opium-planting, the business still widely exists. The landscape here is very complicated, with many small roads winding through the mountains. So it’s not enough to just check the cargo at border crossings. We also need to fight the war in the mountains," said Zhang.
While armed police patrol the mountains, on the highways, another squad is carrying out random searches. Given the huge flow of people and cargo in and out of China, the task is huge.
Chinese police largely depend on its intelligence networks and experience to narrow their search.
A young man carrying heroin into the country was apprehend and now facing criminal charges.
"During our random check, we judged from his facial expression that he was possibly carrying drugs, so we started searching his luggage, and we were proven right. Traffickers bringing in little amounts of drugs are like ants moving things to their nest. But the total quantity of drugs they bring in can be potentially huge if we don’t stop them," a border policeman said.
Police say traffickers have all kinds of "creative" ways of hiding their drugs.
"We confiscated these drugs from a criminal gang’s hidden stash. Through intelligence, we learned the exact time and location of a trade, and managed to bust the entire gang in one swoop, confiscating a total of 105 kilos of drugs," an officer said.
China's Public Security Ministry says the country now faces a grave situation in the battle against drugs. It has called for stronger international efforts to crack down on this insidious enemy at the country’s doorstep.