China Tells India ‘Educate Your Travellers’


Beijing: China has asked India and other governments to warn their citizens about China’s strong drug laws after five Indian nationals were arrested in Kunming and face the prospect of heavy sentences after being caught with 24 kg of the drug hashish, an extract from the cannabis plant.

Five Indian citizens were caught while entering Kunming airport, arriving from Kolkata on China Eastern airline flights on August 24 and September 6. The Indian Embassy has been notified of their detention and been granted consular access on September 21.

The five Indian nationals face heavy punishments as China has among the strictest drug laws in the world. Mere possession of more than 10 kilograms of cannabis can bring between seven years in prison to life imprisonment, while penalties for smuggling or sales are even stronger.

The five men from Kolkata were identified as Sheikh Ahmad Ali, Akrar Khan, Feroz Khan, Sheikh Ismail and Maqsud Alam. They have been accused of concealing the drugs in food packets and in the linings of laptop bags. They could not be reached for comment.

Official sources told India Today they will have the chance to evaluate the charges when consular access is granted. In a statement to India Today, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said it hoped that “Governments of related countries could educate their citizens coming to China that they must observe China’s laws and shall not engage in illegal activities.”

“Drug crimes are universally accepted grave crimes which bear severe harm to the society,” the ministry said. “China has been cracking down on drug crimes in accordance with the law. Judicial departments have been trying related cases according to the law, justly and independently, and fully protecting the legal rights of the litigants.”

The statement added that the case was under further investigation and that the Kunming Customs Anti-Smuggling Bureau had informed the Indian Embassy about the case.

If found guilty, the five are likely to be formally charged in China. Drug smuggling is a serious offense in the country and authorities have shown little leniency in the past, with legal experts often citing China’s past history in dealing with opium smuggling as one reason for harsh penalties.

Heavier sentences have been awarded in the past for smuggling cocaine or heroin, drugs which call for harsher penalties under Chinese law. Cases involving hashish may bring lesser sentences, but the quantity of drugs involved in this case may bring a heavy sentence, experts have said.

In 2009, a British national Akmal Shaikh, a Pakistani-British businessman, was executed for allegedly bringing in 4 kilograms of heroin into Urumqi airport in Xinjiang. Earlier this year, Juliana Lopez, a 23-year-old ‘beauty queen’ from Colombia, was sentenced to prison for 15 years having been caught with 610 grams of white powder that contained cocaine at Guangzhou airport.


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