China Sentences 14 ‘Snakeheads’ in Southern Fujian Province
A court in China's southeastern coastal province of Fujian sentenced 14 "snakeheads" to prison terms of two to 10 years for trafficking migrants out of the country, state media reported Saturday.
The 14 people smugglers, known in Chinese as "snakeheads," were sentenced in Changle city on Thursday at a public sentencing rally in front of some 3,000 people, the China News Service said.
The group had been convicted of organizing the illegal transportation of "large numbers of people" out of China, including a group of 110 people smuggled to the United States, by way of Canada, in July 1997 and another group of 190 people to Canada in January 1998, the report said.
Changle County, which is some 30 miles (48 kilometers) southeast of the provincial capital of Fuzhou, is the ancestral home of a huge overseas Chinese population and has long been a hot bed of migrant trafficking.
Hopeful migrants are known to pay snakeheads up to 30,000 dollars for passage, sometimes in the holds of decrepit fishing boats or in airtight cargo containers, to the prosperous markets of the developed world.
There the migrants often spend years working menial jobs trying to pay off their debts to the traffickers.
China claims it is cracking down on people smuggling, with Fujian officials arresting 900 snakeheads in the first six months of the year.
But officials continue to face criticism for turning a blind eye to smuggling activities and for allegedly profiting from the trade by accepting bribes.
Fujianese also believe the snakeheads arrested are not the ringleaders, but merely representatives who do the recruiting work.
The involvement of a snakehead gang was suspected after 58 Chinese immigrants were found dead in the back of a lorry entering Britain in June. The immigrants, who suffocated in the sealed lorry, were also thought to have come from Fujian.
The incident created outrage in Fujian where the homes of known snakeheads were attacked and robbed -- BEIJING (AFP)
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