Date
17 October 2017
China's space agency has withdrawn claims that authorities have uncovered a huge marijuana plantation and secret passageways with the help of satellite data. Photos: CNSA, Chase Sudduth
China's space agency has withdrawn claims that authorities have uncovered a huge marijuana plantation and secret passageways with the help of satellite data. Photos: CNSA, Chase Sudduth

China refutes claims on huge marijuana plantation discovery

China’s Ministry of Public Security has refuted reports which said that police uncovered a huge marijuana plantation in the country with the help of satellite data.

The information is incorrect, the ministry said on Monday, adding that it is investigating the matter.

Meanwhile, China National Space Administration (CNSA), which said last week that satellite imagery helped uncover a large marijuana plantation, has also walked back its claims.

The space agency withdrew a statement it issued last Thursday, saying it contained inaccurate information.

On Aug. 21, CNSA claimed in a statement that authorities discovered a big marijuana plantation with the help of data from Gaofen-1, an advanced earth observation satellite that was launched in April last year, China News reported.

Opium poppy plantations were said to be spread over Heilongjiang, Inner Mongolia and Hebei regions while marijuana plantations were found in Jilin and Inner Mongolia regions. Police also found secret passageways and smuggling routes through the satellite data, it was claimed.

According to the China News report, authorities discovered tens of illegal passageways and oil smuggling routes along the China–North Korea border and in the Xinjiang region, as well as offshore oil smuggling in Fujian.

But the government is now denying the claims, with the CNSA also apparently doing a rethink. Inner Mongolia officials also rejected suggestions that a large plantation was found in its region.

This apparent U-turn has given rise to speculation as to what the real facts are, and if it was just some miscommunication on the CNSA’s part.

The reports have drawn added interest as they came amid a celebrity drug scandal. Chinese authorities said last week that they detained Jaycee Chan, the son of Hong Kong martial arts movie star Jackie Chan, and Taiwan actor Ko Chen-tung for marijuana possession.

There have been quite a few rumors in the recent past about a crackdown on marijuana plantations in Inner Mongolia and Jilin. China News noted that Inner Mongolia’s public security officials had issued a statement in May that officials will use satellites to detect marijuana plantations.

Using satellite imagery to detect marijuana plantations is not surprising as many government departments had put satellite data to various uses before. China Earthquake Administration, for instance, had successfully obtained information related to geological rupture in Xinjiang in February.

The National Bureau of Statistics used satellites to investigate and measure the plantation area of grain crops and cotton in Hebei, Liaoning, Shandong, Hubei, Heilongjiang and Xinjiang last year. The National Health and Family Planning Commission is another agency that used satellite data in its work.

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Chinese satellites are now capable of taking high-definition pictures of the earth’s surface, enabling better study on mountains, rivers, etc. Photos: cnnb.com.cn


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