November 7, 2019 01:35 AM
XINGTAI, CHINA – A court in China sentenced nine people Thursday for trafficking fentanyl into the United States.
Chinese police busted a drug ring based in the northern city of Xingtai after getting a tip in 2017 from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Authorities seized 11.9 kilograms of fentanyl and 19 kilograms of other drugs.
Thursday’s sentences included one suspended death sentence, which is usually converted later into life in prison. The court also gave two life sentences and six lesser sentences.
U.S. officials have criticized China as being a main source of fentanyl, a powerful pain killer 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine, as communities across the U.S. have dealt with a deadly opioid crisis.
China says U.S. demand and pharmaceutical companies are responsible.
Despite the conflicting viewpoints, U.S. President Donald Trump received an assurance from China to crack down on fentanyl as part of an interim accord to lower trade tensions at the G-20 summit in Bueno Aires late last year, paving the way for Thursday’s sentences.
“China’s fentanyl trafficking and production prosecution is a positive step in following through on the pledge secured by President Trump,” White House Office of National Drug Control Policy Director Jim Carroll said in a statement. “We look forward to further cooperation to stop the flow of these deadly substances into the United States.”
Synthetic opioids like the ones sold by the Xingtai network were increasingly responsible for the more than the 500,000 American drug overdose deaths in the decade ending in 2017, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.