Part 1: A Foreigner’s Glimpse at Troubled Southern China

After reading of the major drug raid that took place in southern China (see previous post), I couldn’t help but recall my own dealings with this secretive criminal world when I lived in Longzhou, a small town located not more than one hour from the Vietnam border.

Drug trafficking is big in southern China and was especially so in my area.  Our Vietnam-China border zone was a major crossing point for drugs, women coerced or forced into the sex trade, and illegally sold, endangered  animal parts that claimed to heal or enhance certain ailments. (All a bunch of nonsense if you ask the experts).

Drug use is just as prevalent, although everyone I talked to refused to admit China even had a problem. 

The local police and border guards, on the other hand, were very well acquainted with this dilemma and trained to take care of it with caution and diligence. 


I still remember every time I took the long distance bus to the capital city, Nanning, all traffic was stopped at the toll gate before entering the freeway.  Our buses were entered by 2 soldiers, politely checking our IDs and even our bags if someone looked suspicious. 

After 5 minutes or so, we were released to continue onward. Those who forgot their ID cards had to disembark, write down all their information on a clipboard, and return to their seats.  A few times, I remember some who were not allowed to climb back aboard because something was amiss.  One person had his bags of loose-leaf tea confiscated, which he  handed over without too much fuss.  

Once,  I was the person under suspicion when I brought Little Flower (my dog) with me.  She was in her carrier, covered by a towel, which is how we traveled in Sichuan.  What I didn’t realize was that in the south, in-coach dog travel is not permitted.  All animals must go under the bus, with the luggage.

Everything would have been fine if LF hadn’t started moving about in her carrier as the soldier walked by us for inspection.  Her wiggling caused the young man to ask what was inside, to which I showed the dog.  He then frowned, exited the bus and brought back his commander.

Everyone was staring at us and I was panicking the dog would be confiscated.  Luckily, I had her vaccination records with me.  After peering over the documents carefully, the two finally allowed us to travel onward.  This was not, however, before having a brief talk to the driver, most likely criticizing him for allowing us on the bus.

While we did manage  to make it to Nanning and back again that weekend, it was the last time I ever took my dog on a public bus in southern China.


In another incident, I was at our police headquarters in my small town to register as an overseas’ resident.  This is a standard procedure in China for any foreign teacher.  We go to the local police station with our school representative to legally establish our residency for a year. 

While there, I witnessed a drug bust of sorts which made me realize how serious a situation it was to work the border areas.

A disheveled, young man in dirty clothes was hustled out of a police van in his bare feet.  (Most likely his shoes were taken so he wouldn’t run away). His hands were cuffed behind him and he was told to kneel on the tile floor in the main room where I was waiting.  Three officers then brought in his medium-sized duffle bag and began to unpack it, lining up the contents neatly on the floor for photographing.

This is the first time I had ever seen a criminal in China captured other than TV.  I had no idea what he was being held for until his bag was unpacked. The contents of that bag astounded me, not so much for what was inside but how much of it had been stuffed in.

There were 2 shot guns, divided into pieces for assembly, hundreds of bullets, a few packs of cigarettes (personal use?),  packets of what I assumed were drugs, his own private tools for shooting drugs and then a few other paraphernalia items I wasn’t familiar with.  (Definitely not my world.)

During the time it took to spread all this out on the floor, the prisoner remained kneeling, waiting for the documentation to finally take place.  He was not ill-treated or harassed in any way.  At times, he was asked questions if these things were his.  He merely answered by nodding or saying “yes” but it was clear he was not completely all there.  Whatever he had been taking or using made him extremely groggy.

While I was curious to know more about the guy, my business was completed within the hour so I had to leave.  I do remember it gave me a deep impression about what many of us living in Longzhou, my students, colleagues and even myself, never saw but was going on right under our noses, so to speak. 

(To be continued)

About connieinchina

I have been in the Asia region for 30 years as an English language teacher. 28 of those have been spent with the Amity Foundation, a Chinese NGO that works in all areas of development for the Chinese people. Amity teachers are placed at small colleges throughout China as instructors of English language majors in the education field. In other words, my students will one day be English teachers themselves in their small villages or towns once they graduate. Currently, this is my 13th year in Luzhou Vocational and Technical College. The college is located in Luzhou city (loo-joe), Sichuan Province, a metropolis of 5 million people located next to the Yangtze River .
This entry was posted in Along China's Li River: Longzhou, Guangxi, From Along the Yangtze, Luzhou: Yangtze Rivertown, Luzhou: Yangtze Rivertown Stories. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Part 1: A Foreigner’s Glimpse at Troubled Southern China

  1. Sharon White says:

    I think you are very brave to live in China!

    Sent from my iPad


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