China continues to experience a rising wave of drug-related crimes, with the Internet serving as a key channel for the underground drug market, an anti-drug official said.
According to the Ministry of Public Security, police uncovered 151,000 drug crimes last year, up 24 per cent from 2012.
"The Internet has become an increasingly active platform for the organisation and operation of drug abuse and trafficking," Liu Yuejin, director of the ministry's narcotics control bureau, said in an interview.
Criminals also use the Internet to learn how to source material and make drugs illegally, he said.
To fight increasing drug crimes via the Internet, the police launched a nationwide crackdown last summer. In eight days starting on July 29, police arrested 2,120 suspects and smashed 11 drug production centers.
Meanwhile, more drug products are being produced in China instead of being imported. Police smashed 572 drug-processing centers last year, up 75.5 per cent from 2012, according to the ministry.
Liu said challenges remain in the fight against drugs, such as a shortage of hands.
There are only 20,000 anti-drug police officers nationwide, and they are strained under the heavy and complex anti-drug work. Equipment and infrastructure for narcotics control also need to be updated, Liu said.
To intensify the crackdown on drugs, the police will focus on high-risk areas like Lufeng, a coastal city in Guangdong province, Liu said.
The police will further investigate and target major drug trafficking rings and drug lords in northern Myanmar, and focus on fighting smuggling gangs at the China-Vietnam border, he said.
Li Li, a lawyer from the Beijing Lawyers Society, said a priority is to bring laws up-to-date.
"Our anti-drug laws and regulations are lagging. In practice, punishment is always more lenient than it should be," she said.
Drug abuse, especially involving synthetic drugs, can drive addicts to extreme behaviour such as suicide, kidnapping and murder. It can also seriously damage health and spread diseases such as AIDS, Li said.