Four Britons arrested in eastern China after drugs bust

Sophia Yan
The four Britons were arrested in the city of Xuzhou in Jiangsu province - REX

Four Britons have been arrested in the eastern Chinese province of Jiangsu, the British embassy in Beijing confirmed to the Telegaph, two days after police announced the arrest of 16 foreigners in a drug bust

The embassy is in contact with Chinese authorities and providing consular assistance, though a spokesperson declined to provide further details and said she couldn't confirm if the arrested Brits were part of the drug-related investigation.

Jiangsu authorities arrested 19 people in July, including 16 foreigners after they failed a drug test, according to a statement from police in Xuzhou, a city in the province released this week.

“One foreigner is detained for violations of criminal law,” said the statement. The rest are under administrative detention; the case is currently ongoing and police haven't provided further information regarding the nationalities of the other foreigners.

Those arrested include seven foreign teachers and nine students, some of whom were teachers at Swiss-based EF Education First, an education company that operates a chain of language institutes in China.

Drug-related charges in China, such as drug trafficking, can carry extreme penalties such as the death sentence.

Foreigners under administrative detention could spend up to 15 days in jail, and be deported from China after that period; however, being in administrative detention doesn't block future criminal charges. Being placed under criminal detention means the police have up to 37 days to obtain approval for a formal arrest from a prosecutor, and suspects could be held for several months before a trial.

Chinese authorities have waged a crackdown on foreigners working on improper visas. They have also been vocal about targeting drug use, including marijuana, conducting random raids and demanding drug tests. Authorities have made clear they will go after both foreigners and Chinese

Earlier this month, an editorial in Communist Party mouthpiece China Daily blasted cannabis culture in other countries and noted that legalised marijuana in other countries doesn’t present expats “an excuse for breaking China’s drug law.”

“It is ridiculous that some foreigners bark at the moon citing their homeland’s laws as a talisman for their transportation, sales and consumption of marijuana and related products in China,” the editorial said.

“Anyone who smokes, produces, transports, supplies, or illegally possess marijuana in China, be they Chinese or foreigners, will be committing a crime and thus be subject to the punishments sanctioned by China’s laws,” it said.

EF Education First’s Xuzhou branch said in a statement online that it was “deeply regretful” that some of its teachers have been accused of being  involved with drugs outside of work hours, and that it was cooperating with the investigation.

The company also noted that it has a “zero tolerance” policy regarding drugs, that it “absolutely forbid” to consume or possess illegal medication or drugs, and anyone found in violation would see their employment contracts terminated.

Calls to the company's headquarters in Switzerland were unanswered.

Additional reporting by Yiyin Zhong