China seeks info on Chinese drug suspects in Philippines

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MANILA, Philippines (AP) — China has sought information from Filipino authorities to help capture suspected Chinese drug traffickers in the Philippines and wants to forge a stronger anti-drug pact to fight the menace, the Chinese ambassador said, adding it's "utterly wrong" to say all the drug lords are Chinese.

Ambassador Zhao Jianhua said late Tuesday that police in China and in the Philippines have exchanged visits recently for joint training and intelligence sharing in the growing anti-drug cooperation between the countries. China has also offered law enforcement equipment to bolster Manila's drug war.

President Rodrigo Duterte has publicly said an unspecified number of Chinese nationals were involved in the illegal drug trade in the Philippines and that drugs have been smuggled from China to the Philippines. In one instance, Duterte threatened a suspected Chinese drug lord with death right at Manila's airport if he returned to the country.

Philippine National Police documents on suspected drug traffickers seen by The Associated Press include a list of 14 Chinese nationals, including a woman, with their pictures. Another document identifies two Taiwanese running a "drug laboratory" in a northern Philippine province. Their names were not among those read by Duterte in public earlier this month as part of his shame campaign.

At least three international drug syndicates run by Chinese, Africans and Mexicans operate in the Philippines. "The Chinese or Filipino-Chinese drug syndicates dominate the drug market in the country. They facilitate production, manufacturing and bulk smuggling of dangerous drugs in the country," according to the police documents.

Duterte's anti-drug crackdown has been the deadliest and most massive in recent Philippine history, with nearly 2,000 suspects dead so far and more than 673,000 others surrendering for fears they may be killed, according to police.

Zhao urged Philippine authorities to provide their Chinese counterparts with specific information about Chinese suspects to help capture them instead of announcing their names publicly without coordination.

"If you find there are Chinese nationals who got themselves involved in drug-related crimes, give us solid information before you say they are Chinese," Zhao said. "These allegations or generalizations must be avoided."

Adequate information on suspects would allow Chinese authorities to help determine their real citizenship and possible location, Zhao said, adding "it is utterly wrong to say that all those drug lords are Chinese."

"We do not deny that there are some Chinese nationals who are involved in illegal drugs activities," he said. "Our position is clear. Whoever is involved in the illegal drug activities, even if they are Chinese citizens, they must be punished in accordance with laws."

China, Zhao said, has very strict antinarcotics laws and imposes the death penalty for large-scale drug trafficking and would not tolerate offenders. It is not true, he added, that "all those drug materials come from China."

"We're not hiding. We are not protecting them. We promised them that if they committed drug-related crimes, please give us information, so that we can identify them," Zhao said.

China and the Philippines have a general agreement that allows cooperation in fighting criminality but Zhao said that can be strengthened into an accord focusing on battling illegal drugs.

"We can upgrade it to a bilateral agreement. We are looking at that possibility," the Chinese envoy said.

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