From Foreigners to Celebs: China’s Latest Crackdown on Drugs

From Foreigners to Celebs: China’s Latest Crackdown on Drugs
Sep 15, 2014 By Danielle Martin ,

2014 has seen an intensified crackdown on drug trafficking, distribution and possession across China. In June, an announcement was made by President Xi Jinping issuing guidelines that were timed to coincide with the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking on 26 June calling for “a people’s war” to halt the spread of drugs across the country. The guidelines, released by the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and backed by the State Council pledged to slow the growth of drug users by 2020 as well as implement a much more effective drug rehabilitation programme. However, with the increase of drug manufacturing occurring on the mainland, higher numbers of arrests and prosecutions amongst both foreigners and Chinese nationals as well as the perceived idea of it being “cool” – many Chinese celebrities are making headlines for possession and use of recreational drugs – this may be one war that China could struggle to win.

From Foreigners to Celebs: China’s Latest Crackdown on Drugs

Foreign drug suspects

Following the comments made by the CPC in June, Beijing police struck out raiding the popular expat bar 2Kolegas on Saturday 9th August at around 2am, issuing on-the-spot urine tests to patrons there. According to TimeOut, nine people were arrested, five of them foreigners confirmed to be two Italians, a French national, one South African and a fifth of undetermined nationality who have now been deported back to their respective countries. The information regarding the raid and subsequent arrests and deportations came from Stephen McDonell, the China Correspondent for the Australia Broadcasting Corporation who was at the scene that evening. Less publicized raids allegedly continued at other bars in the following weeks.

This raid comes on the back of another crackdown that was carried out in May, again in Beijing in the popular Sanlitun district, which saw 30 people arrested for drug dealing according to Beijing police. They stated that an amount of marijuana, MDMA and methamphetamine was amongst the confiscated items with the dealers smuggling the drugs from the south of China before organising a circle of trade within Beijing.  However, reports are conflicting on the number of foreigners involved. Some say all 30 detainees were foreign, with others suggesting that the number was a third of that, at ten.

Celebrity drug use in China

High profile celebrity arrests are becoming more prominent in an attempt to show the voracity of the latest anti-drugs campaign sweeping the country and there seems to be no shortage of them:

1) Jaycee Chan, the 32 year old son of actor Jackie Chan, was arrested on drugs charges in August along with friend Kai Ko, a 23 year old Taiwanese actor following a raid in Beijing where both tested positive for marijuana. A later search of his apartment uncovered a further 100 grams of marijuana.

2) Zhang Mo, the actor son of actor and director Zhang Guoli, has had his second brush with the law after being detained at the end of July. The situation was confirmed as being drug related by various Chinese media outlets following his first arrest in 2012 for marijuana possession.

3) Singer/reality TV star Li Daimo was sentenced to 9 months imprisonment for hosting crystal meth parties at his home earlier this year.

4) 40 year old actor Gao Hu was detained in Beijing, after confessing to smoking marijuana as well as possession of the drug on 4 August. He was arrested along with three other people with police seizing around seven grams of marijuana and a gram of methamphetamine.

5) Actor and writer Chen Wanning was detained in June for possession and use of methamphetamine just two weeks after director Zhang Yuan who was arrested making it his second foray into drug charges.


It is well known that in China drug possession, manufacturing and distribution all carry a death penalty sentence which should be enough to put anybody off considering this dubious profession at all. However it isn’t. According to the Ministry of Public Security, last year alone saw 1491 drug-related crimes involving foreigners, a marked increase of 15.4% and when it came to drug related suspects, 1963 foreigners were arrested making it an increase of 17.3%.

More recently, there have been a number of executions carried out involving foreigners. The beginning of August this year saw two South Korean nationals executed for drug smuggling. This comes after a British national – Akmal Shaikh - was sentenced to death in 2009 for heroin possession, followed by a Japanese citizen arrested in 2010 for possession of 2.5kg of methamphetamine and a South African woman, Janice Linden who was executed by lethal injection in 2011 more than three years after her initial arrest for possession of 3kg of methamphetamine upon arrival into Guangzhou airport.

Moving away from foreigners and onto Chinese nationals, they fare no better. This year alone two men in Hainan Province were executed in January for trafficking over 5kg of drugs, most of it heroin. Li Yongxin and Wei Jidong received their sentences in 2011, however owing to appeals procedures being lodged in the interim they were carried out at the beginning of this year.   

According to Amnesty International, China executes thousands of prisoners on drug trafficking charges every year, more than the rest of the world combined. 

The drug trade

The Chinese government is not only concerned with the rapid rise in drug use throughout the country, but particularly that of synthetic drug use, drugs such as methamphetamines, which were rarely seen in the country in the past. It is focusing its attentions on this aspect in particular and in January police raided a methamphetamine manufacturing plant seizing three tonnes of the substance and arresting 182 suspects. A few months later in April, police shattered three major drug gangs in Huizhou arresting 70 suspects and following this seized more than 800 kilograms of ketamine at two locations in Huidong County, Huizhou.

In May of this year, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime released its annual report into worldwide drug use. It cited an increase in synthetic drug use worldwide, especially in Asia. According to the report, between 2010-2012 seizures of methamphetamine doubled, attributed to East and South East Asia as well as North America with the number of users in China increasing rapidly. This statistic is also backed by Gloria Lai, the senior police officer for the International Drug Policy Consortium and an expert on drug laws in Asia. Given these comments, it’s no wonder that the Chinese government are clamping down so as to prevent or contain the spread as much as possible. In June the Supreme People’s Court reported that drug related convictions were up 27.8% compared to the same period last year with nearly 40,000 people sentenced for drug offences. Of these, more than 9,000 were handed down a sentence of more than five years imprisonment or death. 

So how are drugs becoming a more frequent occurrence and being transported en masse around the country? Police believe that with the introduction of social media services such as WeChat, it is now much easier for customers to source drugs much quicker and anonymously. Should foreigners be a little worried at the commotion surrounding this latest crackdown given the unpredictable nature and bureaucracy related to our stays here? Well, to put into perspective the figures reported earlier that drug-related crimes involving foreigners have increased by 15% and arrests by 17% from figures in 2013 then it’s certainly better to be wary of any situation that doesn’t appear to be legitimate or may have criminal undertones. Rumors abound that in 2015 the Public Security Bureau will begin random drug testing on foreign expats holding Z visas or applying for marriage licences. How true this is remains to be seen …

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Keywords: drug use in China China’s crackdown on drugs


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PEOPLE that use drugs are just weak stupid lazy that think life is to hard and they need some help. BUT WHAT i do not understand is why some foreigners come to China to sell DRUGS if they know that here they could be executed.

Sep 21, 2014 15:51 Report Abuse



Ok you make me laugh!

Dec 29, 2014 20:33 Report Abuse



Well the drug peddlers are like cockroaches......even if you exterminate them ......they will still appear....they are always selling them because there is demand.....what China govt is doing is don't expect people getting high and then taking some innocent person hostage or kill random people....

Sep 16, 2014 00:29 Report Abuse



Where are the drugs here in China? hey people stay here in China and never leave if you really think there is a drug problem here.. Tell me where they are!

Dec 29, 2014 20:38 Report Abuse



Looks like Tylenol to me.

Sep 15, 2014 18:56 Report Abuse



China and America seem to share the notion that harder punishments = less crime. They're like retarded twins. Please observe how America's "War on Drugs" is going, China. Not so well.

Sep 15, 2014 01:19 Report Abuse



The War on Drugs in America is going very well. Private prisons make a lot of money. Police are supplied and equipped with military gear. Police make a ton in overtime. The War on drugs have made a lot of people rich at the taxpayers expense.

Sep 15, 2014 06:54 Report Abuse



yes. punishment = no solution. where have i heard that before...

Sep 15, 2014 12:34 Report Abuse



illicit drugs have no place in any country. I can't understand why people need to use drugs just to get a moments high. So many people die from overdose, catch HIV and the like. There is no reason for drug abuse.

Sep 15, 2014 00:43 Report Abuse



I agree. I just don't understand why people drink.

Sep 15, 2014 18:55 Report Abuse



or drink coffee or have the biggest drug in the world, sugar

Sep 15, 2014 21:04 Report Abuse



Touche, sir.

Sep 28, 2014 07:10 Report Abuse



Touche to both of you. Crushing my joke. ;) cheers

Sep 28, 2014 07:11 Report Abuse