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Fight against drugs gets high-tech aid

April 7, 2006

Drug traffickers targeting China will soon face a new deterrent, as a device to detect drugs hidden inside human bodies will be recommended for nationwide use this year.

The X-ray detector, which has been used experimentally in Southwest China's Yunnan and Guizhou provinces since 2003 and passed final appraisal last year, would be used at checkpoints across the country, especially those along the borders, the Ministry of Public Security told a press briefing yesterday.

Liu Shuo, deputy director of the ministry's science and technology bureau, said the wide use of the detector might greatly curb drug trafficking in China, as passenger pathways at border checkpoints have become the main channel for trafficking.

Official figures show that more than half of the 117 kilograms of heroin and drug-related chemicals seized by Chinese border police in the first two months of this year had been found in passengers' clothing or inside their bodies.

"Before the invention of the detector, it was very hard to find drugs hidden inside human bodies, such as in the stomach, intestines or vagina," Liu said. "We relied on experience and manual checks, which easily made mistakes and caused disputes over human rights.

"But the use of the new device in Yunnan has significantly brought down such trafficking cases, and we hope it can be installed at checkpoints across the country."

A policeman surnamed Li, who works at the Kunming Railway Station, told China Daily that on average, they find four alleged traffickers a day with the help of the detector.

Working similar to a medical fluoroscope, the detector uses domestic innovative technology, said Luo Shanzhong, another bureau official.

He said suspects stand in front of the detector, which can be either fixed or portable, for only one minute before the results are given.

"In accuracy, our products compare to any similar foreign products," he said.

He added that the machine does almost no harm to human bodies, as the X-ray emitted is about one-tenth of that emitted by regular chest X-ray examination machines.

"And only suspects will be required to go through the check, not everyone," he said.

So far, 62 detectors are in use at checkpoints in Yunnan and Guizhou, the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region and Shanghai.

However, "we recommend that checkpoints install the device, but it is not a must," Luo said.

Insufficient financial input is considered as the biggest reason. "Checkpoints get money for new equipment from local governments," he said. "Although a detector costs only 200,000 yuan (US$24,700), some checkpoints in poor rural areas still cannot afford it."

Source:China Daily