A large number of Chinese anti-drug policemen have sacrificed their lives in the fight against drug trafficking

The Drugs Stop Here


By LU LIANG

His body bares the scars of a dangerous occupation. A 20-cm-long knife scar across his back and a bullet scar on the right side of his chest are his badges of honor, but for Hong Bo, two assignments almost cost him his life.

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“I was barely alive when I came back from these two missions,” smiled Hong, a 41-year-old anti-drug policeman in Kunming, capital city of South China’s Yunnan Province, as he remembered his encounters with drug traffickers.

In the late 1980s, Hong Bo was ordered to intercept a gang of drug traffickers entering China across the Myanmar border. According to the plan, Hong and 10 soldiers set up the ambush in the prearranged position at 5 pm.

Drug traffickers appeared two hours later. There were eight men altogether, all dressed like local farmers. Hong decided to question them and took one soldier with him, while the others lay in ambush.

As they approached the drug gang, Hong saw one of the men pull out a gun from a bamboo basket on his back and shoot at him. He collapsed, unconscious.

On regaining consciousness, Hong was told that in the shoot-out that followed, two of the gang were killed and the others captured. After six months in hospital, Hong returned to his frontier post. His return was seen as a miracle, because the drug trafficker’s bullet has gone right through his chest.

His superior decided to send him back from the frontier line to the nearby city of Simao, but Hong refused. Since 1987, when he first came to serve as a lieutenant at a checkpoint on the China-Myanmar border, Hong Bo has looked upon anti-drug work as his lifelong duty.

In the 1980s, drug production and trafficking was rampant in the Golden Triangle, an area between Myanmar, Thailand and Laos, and the largest source of drugs in the world. With China’s opening up, international drug traffickers found Yunnan, which is adjacent to the notorious triangle, an important channel for drug transportation. To cut the drug supply chain in China, the country’s first anti-drug police was organized in Yunnan Province in 1982.

The frontier checkpoint where Hong served is the fourth anti-drug troop station in the province. When Hong first began working there, the unit had only 30 members and very simple equipment. “We only had two submachine guns and pistols,” remembered Hong, “but we had to fight against well equipped drug traffickers.”

In 1996, Hong was married, and he settled his wife in Simao City before returning to duty.

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But their life was interrupted by a threatening letter less than two months after their marriage. For safety sake, Hong sent his wife back to their hometown. “We have been separated until now, eight years after we married, and I owe much to her,” Hong sighed.

Another mission against drug traffickers in 1998 is also unforgettable for Hong. In early May that year, the anti-drug police were informed that four drug traffickers were making a deal nearby. Because most of the soldiers were away on duty, Hong only had the back up of one soldier and the informer, who accompanied them to the meeting.

When they got to the site, one of the drug traffickers tried to stab the informer. To protect the informer, Hong intervened, in the process getting sliced by another trafficker from right neck to back. It was an over 20-cm-long and 2-cm-deep cut.

“At the moment, I just felt a little bit cold, not a feeling of pain. If I had been cut slightly more to the left I wouldn’t be here today,” Hong recalled calmly. Sadly, he said, the soldier who accompanied him died in the skirmish from the 10 stab wounds he received.

The murderer was finally captured by the police force that arrived later.

Hugging his dead colleague in his arms, Hong burst into tears. “I had seldom shed tears before, even when I was shot, but since then, I could not help myself from weeping at seeing my dear fellow brothers sacrificing their lives in anti-drug fights,” Hong Bo said.

In the last two decades, in Yunnan alone, over 30 officers working on the frontline of the anti-drug enforcement have lost their lives, while 200 others were injured, according to the anti-drug administration of the province.

But the troops did not die in vain. From 1982 to 2003, Yunnan’s anti-drug police uncovered more than 125,000 cases of drug trafficking, and captured and seized more than 168,000 drug dealer suspects, 116.7 tons of drugs and 1.85 tons of illegal chemical substances. The amount of heroin seized in Yunnan accounts for one-third of the nation’s total.

Hong has worked for the last two years at the Yunnan anti-drug administration center. Now, he is compiling his anti-drug experiences in the past decade into a book, which he hopes will raise people’s awareness of the harm caused by drugs. He also hopes his book will let people remember those combating the influx of drugs on the frontline, especially those who have sacrificed their lives.

“My biggest hope is to see a world free of drugs,” said Hong.