China's anti-narcotics police face major risks

China's anti-narcotics police face major risks
A police officer shows samples of different narcotics to employees working at entertainment venues in Wenzhou, Zhejiang province, on Tuesday.

Chinese anti-narcotics police officers face a much higher risk of work-related injury or death than most other categories of officers, according to official statistics.

From 2010 to November 2013, at least 1,148 of the total 20,000 Chinese anti-drug officers either lost their lives or were injured, according to a joint research conducted by the narcotics control bureau at the Ministry of Public Security and the China Narcotics Control Foundation.

Compared with the average hazard of all police forces, officers fighting illegal narcotics in China are almost five times more likely to die and 10 times more likely to sustain injuries while on duty, making it one of the most dangerous jobs in law enforcement, according to Liu Yuejin, director of the narcotics control bureau at the Ministry of Public Security.

Drug criminals tend to resist police more violently with all they have - knives, guns and other weapons - due to the severe punishments the nation's courts hand down for drug-related crimes.

Since 1979, 55 police officers have died in drug-bust missions in Yunnan province on the southwestern border of China - one of the major channels for foreign drug smuggling into Chinese territory. Among them, 22 were killed in gunfights and others in hand-to-hand combat with different weapons.

Chen Yuanhao, an anti-drug police officer in Wuchuan, Guangdong province - one of China's largest black markets for drugs and where 209 officers have been injured or killed from 2010 to 2013 - was crushed to death after being hit and dragged for 50 meters by a car he was checking for suspected drugs in February 2009.

Some HIV/AIDS-positive drug dealers resisted by scratching, biting or stabbing, in an attempt to infect the officers who were sent to arrest them, police say.

That is how anti-drug officer Wei Yi of Sandu, Guizhou province, contracted the AIDS virus. In November 2007, Wei fought to capture Wang Donghong. Wang wounded Wei during the fight. The following year, Wang died of AIDS, and Wei was diagnosed with AIDS.

Various risks, in addition to constant pressures in this profession, pile heavy burdens on these officers' shoulders. In a random survey of 101 anti-drug officers from Guangdong and Guizhou provinces and Chongqing that was released by the press office of the Ministry of Public Security, almost half of the respondents said they were "unwilling to continue with the drug control duty".

Even for the rest who continued to want the job, about 70 per cent did not want to do criminal investigation.

"A job with this many risks deserves generous pay," said Wu Zongxian, a criminal law professor at Beijing Normal University. "The government should do more. Raising their income, and offering them professional psychological counseling could be a good start."

Chen Mengwei contributed to this story.

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