China jails nine for selling fentanyl into US

Police stand guard outside the Xingtai Intermediate People’s court in Xingtai county north China’s Hebei province Thursday Nov. 7 2019

Police stand guard outside the Xingtai Intermediate People’s court in Xingtai county north China’s Hebei province Thursday Nov. 7 2019

The suspended death sentence-which The Wall Street Journal reported is usually commuted to life in prison-was handed to fentanyl producer and smuggler Liu Yong.

A man surnamed Liu was given a death sentence with a two-year reprieve while eight others were given prison terms ranging from six months to life, the Xingtai Intermediate People's Court said.

Against the backdrop of two years of bruising trade war, fentanyl has been an added bone of contention.

China on Thursday jailed nine people for selling fentanyl to Americans, the result of a landmark joint probe, following Donald Trump's fury at Beijing for its perceived inaction against Chinese suppliers fuelling the deadly opioid crisis in the United States.

China has in the past used tax breaks to encourage fentanyl production, and President Trump has long accused China of being the source of his country's problem.

Nevertheless, Trump announced new tariffs on China over the summer as a response to what he saw as China's continued failure to stem the flow of fentanyl into the US.

A Chinese court sentenced nine fentanyl traffickers on Thursday in a case that is the culmination of a rare collaboration between Chinese and US law enforcement to crack down on global networks that manufacture and distribute lethal synthetic opioids.

"This further demonstrates the Chinese government's consistent attitude of zero tolerance towards drug crimes", said Mr Yu Haibing, deputy secretary general of the China National Narcotics Control Commission on Thursday.

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The drugs, drug-making raw materials and tools involved in the case will be confiscated, and all of the illegal gains will be confiscated, the court said. They arrested more than 20 suspects and seized 11.9 kilograms (26.2 pounds) of fentanyl and 19.1 kilograms (42.1 pounds) of other drugs.

The White Houses "drug czar", Jim Carroll, said after meetings with Chinese officials in September that the two countries had pledged "full cooperation" against fentanyl, and he was convinced that Beijing was committed to going after traffickers.

Yu said that the issue of fentanyl was not something any one country could resolve.

China in May began designating all variants of fentanyl as controlled substances, a move welcomed by Washington.

Scrambling to contain surging overdose deaths, Washington has blamed Beijing for failing to curb the supply of synthetic drugs that US officials say come mainly from China.

According to the US's Centres for Disease Control, fentanyl overdose had killed more than 28000 people in the US. The event may also boost his effort to make the deal palatable to hardliners inside his administration who are pushing for structural concessions by Beijing.

The case originated in 2017 from the Department of Homeland Security's New Orleans office, which acted on a tip from an informant who provided contact information for a Chinese seller using the pseudonym "Diana", Austin Moore, a regional attache with the department, told reporters.

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