China just very publicly sentenced nine fentanyl traffickers to long prison sentences after rounding them up and seizing 25 pounds of fentanyl in a grubby lab north of Beijing — with help from the U.S.
The investigation started with a tip from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security about an online drug dealer who went by the name of “Diana,” according to the Associated Press. The operation had a sales arm, online marketing included. Photos from the scene of the 2017 raid in the coal town of Xingtai show open containers filled with chemicals, and Chinese cops maneuvering through the lab with rubber gloves and breathing masks.
President Donald Trump has long accused China of not doing enough to take down fentanyl traffickers, so this time China put the sentencing on display, inviting foreign media to cover it. There was a live stream of the proceedings for reporters to watch in a room inside the courthouse.
One of the traffickers got a death sentence — which, in China, are generally commuted to life in prison — and two others got life sentences.
Trump, in August, accused the Chinese of not doing enough to curb fentanyl exports, which Chinese authorities called “blatant slander,” according to Reuters, and accused the U.S. of not doing enough to curb demand. But now China says they’re taking trafficking seriously, working two other cases based on U.S. tips.
“On the China side, we have cracked down on all the sales, production, and smuggling-related aspects; we hove that it will have a positive effect in the U.S. too,” said Yu Haibin, an official with the National Narcotics Control Commission, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Back in the U.S., authorities found at least 50 people who tried to buy fentanyl off the Xingtai right, and has resulted in arrests in New York and Oregon, a DHS official told the AP.
Fentanyl, an opioid 50 times more potent than heroin, has been largely responsible for a spike of overdose deaths in the U.S. And most fentanyl in the U.S. is imported from China, making its way through the southwestern border or airports.
“There’s millions and millions of parcels coming into the country every day. You can’t search them all. And traffickers know that,” James Hund, a special agent in charge of the DEA’s New York field division previously told VICE News.
Cover: Police stand guard outside the Xingtai Intermediate People’s Court in Xingtai, China, Thursday, Nov. 7, 2019. (AP Photo/Erika Kinetz)