SHANGHAI – Authorities in China have arrested more than 60,000 people for drug-related crimes and seized 11.14 metric tons of narcotics in a vast, multi-city sweep, the official Xinhua news agency reported.
Police handled 52,800 drug crime cases from late September to December during a campaign dubbed “Ban drugs in hundreds of cities”, it said, quoting the Ministry of Public Security. The campaign will last until April.
The ministry said earlier that around 180,000 drug users had been punished by mid-December, with 55,679 sent to compulsory rehabilitation centers.
Illegal drugs, especially synthetic substances like methamphetamine, ketamine and ecstasy, have grown in popularity in China in tandem with the rise of a new urban class with greater disposable incomes.
Authorities have stepped up efforts to combat drugs in the Golden Triangle, teaming up with Laos, Myanmar and Thailand to try to stem the flow of drugs from Southeast Asia, even arresting a string of celebrities on drug charges to bring publicity to the issue. Earlier this month a Beijing court sentenced Jaycee Chan, son of kung fu movie star Jackie Chan, to six months in prison and fined him 2,000 yuan on drug charges.
Meanwhile, China will allow online sales of prescription drugs as early as this month, a policy that will open up an over 1 trillion yuan ($161 billion) market to online pharmacy operators like Alibaba Group Holding Ltd and Wal-Mart Stores Inc.
The China Food and Drug Administration (CFDA) is finalising which prescription medicines to approve for sale, a senior healthcare policy adviser told Reuters.
The policy would help reform a fragmented and opaque market controlled by state-run distributors and hospitals, brought into the spotlight last year by a bribery case which saw drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline PLC fined nearly $500 million.