Pubdate: Tue, 10 Jan 2017
Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Copyright: 2017 The Globe and Mail Company
Author: Si Chen
Page: S1


State-run Chinese media have expressed skepticism that the country is a
key source of fentanyl, despite an agreement with the RCMP that was seen
as a tacit admission of China's role in fuelling the unfolding overdose
crisis in Canada.

A Globe and Mail investigation last year revealed how fentanyl is
manufactured in China and how easily it is shipped to Canada, and border
officials here have intercepted dozens of such shipments.

Last November, the RCMP announced an agreement with the Chinese Ministry
of Public Security to stem illicit fentanyl exports, citing recent
seizures of fentanyl and carfentanil, an even stronger opioid, that
originated in China.

At the same time, media reports in China have played down the country's role.

"It is unsubstantiated to assert that China is the top source of the
synthetic opioids that have killed thousands of drug users in the U.S. and
Canada," said an article in Reference News, a Beijing newspaper published
by the state-run Xinhua News Agency.

The newspaper, citing China's National Narcotics Control Commission, said
such assertions "lack the support of sufficient numbers of actual,
confirmed cases.", a news website, said China is concerned about the
international perceptions of the country's role in the opioid trade and
has been trying to stop the manufacture and export.

The Canadian agreement followed a similar arrangement with the United
States, announced last September. B.C. Premier Christy Clark was among
those calling for the federal government to reach an agreement with China,
citing the ease with which small amounts of fentanyl can be shipped
through the mail without detection.

The Canada Border Services Agency has previously said that its officers
made 32 fentanyl seizures between May and September of last year.

The Globe's investigation found fentanyl can be ordered online, and its
high potency allows it to be smuggled in small packages through regular

Once in Canada, the drug is cut into, or made to look like, other drugs
including cocaine, heroin and oxycodone and sold for considerable profits.

Dr. Robert Gordon, a criminology professor at Simon Fraser University near
Vancouver, said including denials in state-run media was a "diplomatic
way" for the Chinese government to respond.

"China is trying to soften its image of being identified as the major
source of fentanyl [coming to Canada], like many other countries," he
said. "But in many ways, RCMP and CBSA have got hold of information
pointing that China is or has been the major source [of fentanyl] "

Still, Dr. Gordon said the denials won't have an impact on the agreement
between Chinese government and RCMP.

"It is not like they are not going to co-operate to solve the problem any
more," he said. "It's just a claim."

Officials at the Chinese consulate in Vancouver could not be reached for a

The Reference News coverage suggested it's difficult for China to
effectively crack down on the export of illicit drugs.

"It's difficult," wrote Fangyu Zhu in a Reference News article. "If we set
regulations on one substance, they [chemists] can always find a
substitution or synthesize slightly different, then it's a new, legal
substance that can be exported."

B.C. declared a public-health emergency last year because of an increase
in fatal overdoses.

As of Nov. 30, the were 755 fatal overdoses across the province, the
majority of which were linked to fentanyl.
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