Drummed out of town: Paramilitary policemen carry seized crystal meth in Boshe. Photo: Reuters
Beijing: Call it ‘‘Breaking Bad: China Edition". More than 3000 police officers equipped with helicopters and motorboats and accompanied by dogs descended on a southern Chinese village notorious for making crystal meth, seizing almost three tonnes of the drug and 21 tonnes of raw materials and arresting 182 people.
The massive raid targeted Boshe village in Guangdong province, a difficult-to-reach hamlet of 14,000 people near the city of Lufeng. Pictures of December 29’s raid published on Chinese news websites showed dozens of police vehicles massed in the village of traditional-style, single-story tile-roofed homes separated by narrow alleyways, many passable only by bicycle or on foot.
Traditional town: Police cars are seen during a raid of premises in Boshe village, Guangdong province. Photo: Reuters
Provincial anti-drug official Qiu Wei told the state-run Xinhua news agency that more than one-fifth of the village’s 2000 households were connected to the drug trade and that the town had been providing a third of the crystal meth made in China over the last three years.
Police said they seized nine guns, ammunition, a homemade bomb and knives. Three officers were reportedly injured in the operation, including two who were shot and one who was struck by a car.
Use and production of crystal meth has been rising rapidly in China. A study published in November by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime said of the more than 2 million drug users who have come into contact with Chinese authorities, 29 per cent were using amphetamine-type drugs, up from just 9 per cent in 2008.
Breaking bad: Paramilitary policemen guard suspects during the raid. Photo: Reuters
Meth, in both crystal and pill form, is the second most popular illicit drug in China, behind only heroin, the report said, and in 2012, 40 per cent of the total drug arrests - nearly 50,000 out of 121,000 cases - were related to meth.
Once known for its lychee fruit, Boshe village is an insular - some would say backward - place where all the residents are said to share a single surname, Cai.
In recent months, some inhabitants had taken to online forums, complaining that the extensive meth-making operations - a process that generates significant amounts of noxious waste - had contaminated the water and soil, rendering it impossible to grow crops. Piles of waste reportedly littered the town, and residents openly stored the raw ingredients beside their homes.
Other locals said the significant amount of electricity needed for the meth-making laboratories had led to frequent power outages in the village, driving many residents to buy generators.
Earlier attempts by authorities to stamp out drug activity in Boshe reportedly were thwarted by an extensive network of lookouts in the village’s narrow streets, as well as even human barricades of women, children and the elderly.
Media reports identified Cai Lianghuo, 42, as the mastermind of the meth operation. He was arrested in November. His cousin and local party chief Cai Dongjia, who was arrested in this week’s raid, was accused of trying to help free Cai Lianghuo from custody.