Short videos on social media platforms have become a new type of drug trafficking tool in China. Drug dealers use them to deliver hidden messages to buyers, whereas ordinary people see them as regular videos.
On Sept. 13, CCTV, a Chinese state-owned media, exposed a case of a narcotic dealer using hidden messages in short videos to communicate with other dealers or users.
In 2019, Li Moubao, a man from Foshan city, Guangdong Province, was arrested on suspicion of drug trafficking. After police interrogation, Li confessed the source of his drugs, which surprised authorities.
Li suggested he could analyze and discern whether the uploader of short videos may be a drug seller on social media platforms. He said that he obtained the seller’s WeChat account through information hidden in the short videos, and the seller would hint whether he had drugs when Li reached out.
The online name of the seller was “Holding Hands on a Board.” He had posted more than a dozen videos and had 28 fans. These videos are based primarily on the cameraperson’s hand movement. Most of the videos use plates, plant seeds, lighters, etc., as props—coupled with fast-paced music. An ordinary person may not see the meaning of these movements, but drug users and anti-drug authorities can potentially see through the cameraman’s intent.
According to police, the seller used this video-signaling method to message drug buyers. To confirm the buyer is indeed a drug user, the seller would request that the buyer record a video of himself taking drugs as proof.
Li told the police that it took him nearly one week of exchanges to gain the seller’s trust and then purchase his drugs through express delivery. Before Li was captured, he bought drugs twice from the seller, and the drugs were hidden in individually packaged betel nut bags.
The seller’s name was Mr. Tang, a 33-year-old man who had a history of drug abuse, from Dongan County, Hunan Province.
The police obtained Tang’s express delivery records for the past year from his courier and discovered an extensive drug-related network. Within a year, Tang had sent more than two hundred couriers to about 27 provinces and cities in China. The drugs seized were primarily methamphetamine.
‘The Smurfs,’ a New Type of Narcotic
When speaking of “the Smurfs,” people often think of the cartoon with the small, blue, humanoid creatures who live in mushroom-shaped houses in the forest. However, in China, the Smurfs are also the name of a new type of narcotic.
On July 21, 2020, more than 17,000 packages of blue pills were seized by the anti-drug police in Meihekou city, Jilin Province. After inspection, these light-colored tiny blue pills were classified as third-generation Smurfs.
According to anti-drug authorities, these new Smurfs become colorless and tasteless after being dissolved in wine or water, so they are easily concealed. When people drink the Smurfs-tainted drink, they will experience short-term memory loss.
Compared to conventional narcotic drugs such as opium and heroin, which are primarily derived from plants, the Smurfs are chemically synthesized. Synthetic drugs can cause severe damage to the nervous system. The newest type of Smurfs creates a euphoric effect when taken in low doses. It has a strong calming effect when taken in high doses, which causes drowsiness, coma, and even death. If used in combination with alcohol the risk of dying is even greater.
Another prominent feature of the Smurfs is that traditional injections are not required. Most conventional narcotics, such as opium and heroin, require injections. The third-generation Smurfs is a variant of its predecessors, which acquired the ability to be mixed in drinks or rolled into cigarettes.
According to police, the new drug can be disguised in food and completely hidden in people’s daily lives. It can be mixed into all kinds of beverages, making it deceptive and almost impossible to detect.