lørdag 20. april 2024

Why a deluge of Chinese-made drugs is hard to curb

When Sammy left her village in Sichuan province to attend university in northern China more than a decade ago, she was following a well-trodden rite of passage. The English language graduate was the first person in her family to go to university. She had a passion for foreign languages and dreamed of becoming a teacher. She had never heard of synthetic opioids before.

After graduating, Sammy found work at a chemicals company in the Chinese city of Shijiazhuang, selling what she thought were chemicals to clients around the world. She would practice English every day speaking to her customers online, and earn a commission for each sale she made. Her dreams of becoming a teacher quickly faded. "Maybe others are just like me… At the start we don't know what we are selling, but when we find out we have fallen in love with the work," she said. "This work can make money," she adds.

Sammy [not her real name] is an unlikely drug trafficker. She is one of what international law enforcement agencies estimate could be thousands of online sales representatives, working for illicit Chinese pharmaceutical and chemical companies producing and smuggling illegal laboratory made drugs.