Drug raid in Sanlitun sees more than 20 arrested

A China Daily article titled “Beijing police nab 8 foreigners suspected of drug trafficking” states that more than 20 people were nabbed in a Sanlitun raid last night:

Police in Beijing apprehended more than 20 people, including eight foreigners, in suspicion of using and trafficking drugs in two downtown bars, said Beijing’s pubic [sic] security authority early on Saturday.

Police in Chaoyang district were tipped off that some drug traffickers and users gathered in pubs in Sanlitun, a bar area popular among both Chinese and foreigners, said the press office of Beijing Public Security Bureau.

I end up in Sanlitun almost every Friday night for the Sequoia Cafe wine tasting, but this is the first time I’ve witnessed such a police presence.

The street facing Tongli Studio was blocked by tape and police, from near Poachers to Aperitivo. I saw several dozen police officers, both uniformed and plain-clothes, and a group of eight to ten people with “SWAT” printed on the back of their uniforms. Hundreds of patrons, employees, and residents watched from the doorways of bars and restaurants, the rooftop of Tongli Studio, and apartments.

Police brought people out of the northernmost Pure Girl establishment and put them into a paddy wagon. At one point, two of these people, handcuffed together, were posed in the middle of the street for what I assume were press and police photographers and videographers.

The police went into A Little High and brought someone out. Patrons outside were told they could go in, which most of them did, at which point the photographers took pictures of them sitting in the bar.

Eight or so photographers then rushed down the alley that intersects the street, followed by two officers with German Shepherds and some plain-clothes police.

I watched the raid for about 30 minutes and, at least while I was there, it seemed fairly orderly and calm.

I then headed to Revelations (a jazz band now plays there on weekends) and The Saddle Cantina (to check the inaugural half-price drinks event “Cinco de Drinko” – one person in our party really liked the Mango Mojito). Afterwards, I walked down the Tongli strip and, beside the four Pure Girl establishments being shut, things seemed no different than usual.

My overall impression is that: 1) this raid was much more coordinated that the one last October; 2) given the numerous photographers, it was meant to send a very public message; 3) now is not the time to be acting recklessly in Beijing; and 4) it’s a good idea to have your identification papers with you.

I’ve always had mixed feelings about Sanlitun North. On one hand, I have described it numerous times as a “cesspool”, given the dealers, lady bar touts, and fights. On the other hand, I like numerous establishments there – The Tree, Petit Gourmand, Le Bistrot Parisienne, among others. Hopefully, the end result for this area is not one of “throwing the baby out with the bathwater.”

19 thoughts on “Drug raid in Sanlitun sees more than 20 arrested”

  1. An exciting night all in all – i arrived late, but managed to get into the street to see what was happening. Within five minutes i was detained in Pure Girl 3 and forced to wipe my phone of the photos i had taken of… well, pretty much nothing, to be honest.
    But it was quite exciting being held with a shotgun pointing at my chest and a Russian friend furiously translating into Chinese for me… my Way Shu Ma’s went on deaf ears, methinks.

    Later i had a staring competition with one of the sniffer dogs. I won, but only because it didn’t understand what was going on.

  2. This whole thing was a bit fucked up in my opinion.
    I was one of the people that had to go on the ground outside and I had a friend inside pure girl waiting because they didn’t let her out.

    Apparently the ‘main’ drug dealers of beijing weren’t even there, so I would guess they were warned.
    It did seem pretty organized and everything but I think that as soon as they realized that the main drug dealers, the people they were actually looking for weren’t there, they decided to take anyone who didn’t have an ID card with them.

    The people outside got let go after like 40 minutes of sitting on the ground without showing an ID. Then they realized that the only people in pure girl were either clean or only some little kids that smoked Hash and then to not look stupid they decided to take everyone to the police station that didn’t have an ID.

    They took 3 of my friends and some people of my school, small kids – 9th graders! And then they didn’t even tell us where they took them to. They first told us to the police station right behind bar street but that one is way too small for all the people they took in the first place, so we didn’t even look there.

    I think this whole thing was stupid and unnecessary. Especially that they approached us with guns, they had no right to come running at us and point with their guns at us and shout “sit down” and “shut up”.

    And as well they didn’t even make us empty our pockets. What kind of drug raid is that where they just watch you sit on the ground and as soon as you move you just get shouted at and you have guns pointed at you. Even my friend that was inside pure girl didn’t get touched. they only searched the guys.

    That night scared me so badly and just seeing the police running at us with those big black guns, that image is stuck in my head now…

    The only good thing is that it is probably not going to happen again anytime soon beacuse this for sure cost them a huge amount of money. All the people that used to go to pure girl wont go there again thought – even if pure girl gets reopened, which I highly doubt.

  3. @ M-Dawg,

    Maybe that was the hidden message in the article.

    @ Brock,

    Note to self: improve my Mandarin.

    @ Sophia,

    I doubt money is an issue in the run-up to the Olympics.

    Frankly, 9th graders in Pure Girl at 11 PM? I’m sure the parents were thrilled having to deal with the police.

    My thought while watching the scene: what if you were a tourist, wandered into the Tongli area, thought “Pure Girl, that sounds like a cute name” and went in just as the raid began. That’s one tale you’ll be telling the folks back home.

    Anyway, I think the best advice at this time is to be careful: think about where you drink and always carry ID.

    Cheers, Boyce

  4. Seems they really should get Crockett and Tubbs to come to Beijing…

    I missed all this action, but anyway it’s no surprise the top dealers where all warned in advance. I’m not sure how far up the money from these dealers go, but maybe the guys in charge of the raid knew they were warned, but just went ahead anyway to please people on a political level. Or they wanted to set an example for the low ranking (paying) dealers and the foreigners or whatever.

    I’m guessing they’ll try to get rid of the small dealers, which is good for the big ones as well, and for the olympics, as part of the deal, they can just ask the big ones to keep a low profile. Problem solved.

  5. @Sophia;
    I remember seeing you crouching on the ground with Manon and Mell… i think that made my night. Hilarious :p.

    And at your questioning the presence of the ‘main’ drug dealers – i heard a rumour that big Dave was taken down, but i would be very surprised if that was true. He made it through the raids in september untouched, so i doubt this was any different. A friend-of-a-friend was well clear of the area when Unnamed made a concerned phone call. He knew about it long before it started…. very ‘lucky’.

  6. Sounds very much like a PR exercise to send out a message to scare off young expat kids and to show that foreigners aren’t “above” the law (maybe even to vent some anger at western media?????). I wonder whether Pure Girl hadn’t paid their usual protection money on time??? One never knows. To really get at the drug trade, the police should use quiet undercover techniques which they are so good at in other spheres. But SWAT teams and scaring foreign high school kids? arghhhh

    btw, does anyone know if there is any way to get an ID card that fits in a wallet and is valid to meet the requirements. I hate carrying my passport around as it is too bulky for bluejean pockets and I am scared it will be lifted.

  7. @ Boyce:
    Yea, grade 9 girls but as far as I know their parents knew they were out…
    Beijing is a going-out town. I have seen 8th graders out where the parents knew !
    The parents know the kids go out and they let them because compared to so many other towns and countries beijing is SAFE.

    @ Brock:
    Shut up Brock I don’t get why they let you, Tom and Mike wonder around like you did !
    Tom was pissing me off so badly he went around and all and started talking to us “Do you have to be down there”… When they came they were pointing their fucking guns at us, yes we HAD to be down there.
    And it was only me and Mell cause Manon was inside and only got let go of beacuse of her diplomatic card… But even that after like an hour or more…
    Well so If the rumour is true, ONE got taken down. How many are there in San li tun ? Like 10 maybe even more… Just in that street. You just gotta know the right people I guess.

    @ Terry:
    I am pretty sure they tried to scare us all.
    Plus the message they want to send out into the world is that “Olympics are coming – we are cleaning up”.
    All of my friends and me outside covered our faces though. I do not want to be in the press, even if covering my face makes me look like I am guilty.
    What I did about the ID stuff, I copied my Visa from my passport and my passport main page wiht the picture and all and put plastic around it so it’s somehow safe and that’s what I am carrying around with me now.
    Plus my compound card since I live in a diplomatic compound… You shouldn’t carry your passport with you, if you lose it, that’s not gonna be fun…
    Just copy the important things. Or driving licence something like that to show where you are from and your age…

  8. I don’t hang out in Pure Girl (any of them) and have no idea about “big Dave”, “protection money” or that scene in general.

    But I’m pretty much convinced the authorities aren’t fooling around for the next four months. So be careful where you go and what you do, and always carry some ID.

    @ Sophia,

    “The parents know the kids go out and they let them because compared to so many other towns and countries beijing is SAFE.”

    Maybe “safer,” but “safe”? There are fights every week in Sanlitun, lots of fake alcohol, and – just the other night – you had a gun pointed at you. Anyone who lets their eighth-grade kid go to Sanlitun at night because it’s “safe” should have his or her parenting license revoked.

    Cheer, Boyce

  9. I was wandering around Shanghai yesterday in the subway and they had cops with dogs posted in a couple stations. Cute little dogs, spaniels I guess, not German shepherds or anything. Didn’t see anything happen but you can just guess what they are trained to smell.

  10. @ Boyce

    I know that there are fights and all I have enough friends that are stupid enough to get into them…
    But if I think of my home country, I’ve never been out there because there is one dead person every weekend and that because of fights or alcohol and shit.
    The people here, the foreigners that go out more or less care about each other and take care of each other, that’s what I mean with safe. The possibility that you ahve someone die on the street cause the person is too drunk is really small. Even if you don’t know that person and it’s a foreigner, you go and help them. I would never go out in Austria I would be way too scared there any Austria is a pretty safe country…

    I am not saying I am happy with the 8th graders out. And that they drink – but at least most parents know they are out and know where the kids are.
    The ones that lie to their parents are just fucked up and stupid. I would never go out if my parents don’t know where I am even though I am 18 and can stay out as long as I want… At least my parents know where I am about…

  11. I was amidst the chaos when it occurred and I thought that the raid was very well orchestrated. When I saw the police I stuck my hands up in the air, pasted a shit eating grin on my face, and sat down. They did not pester me beyond that. They didn’t ask for ID or even talk to me(which is good because I had no ID). It’s funny to me though because there is a police station literally just around the corner and I am 100% sure that the police would have known about the drug dealers nested in the Pure Girls. I guess that just confirms the whole “PR” thing. I am just disappointed at the possibility of Sanlitun’s ‘lesser known’ bar street becoming deserted and turning into another Black sun and Franks. I was also going to do a news story on underage drinking (not trying to say its bad or ‘expose’ the dangers, but rather a more social perspective – what it means for kids) , but I dont think that will happen now.

  12. I’m always astounded at the number of foreigners in China who seem to think that they’re entitled to buy and use drugs, at will, without the interference of the public authorities. And I’m even more astounded when they act like a crackdown on those purchases and use is some sort of human right violation.

    What were you all expecting? A commendation?

  13. @ Sophia,

    There are a lot of fights in Sanlitun and a common story among the people caught up in them, at least of those of which I am aware, is they thought the area was “safe” — that it wouldn’t happen to them.

    Re the eighth-graders, you write, “at least most parents know they are out and know where the kids are.” It makes it even worse that the parents know this is going on.

    @ Todd,

    I watched for about 30 minutes and that’s the impression I got – it was well-orchestrated. The only people that seemed even a bit out of control were the photographers.

    @ Kelvin,


    Cheers, Boyce

  14. @ Boyce

    No it doesn’t it makes it better than the kids just sneaking out and getting imaginly wasted… I am not happy with those little kids out and when I see them I always laugh and make fun of them but it’s the parents decision. I’m not saying it’s a good decision but this is how beijing is like.

    @ Todd
    Remember me ? The girl from the table…
    Where did you go afterwards I didn’t see you anymore… Did you stay with Yifei ?

    This is the video that got released by the Chinese police. This is a french translation of it though. It’s still cool to watch you can see how they plan it all and how they then run into sanlitun and all.
    Since it is the video of the chinese police it doesn’t show anyhting of the things they did to the people. It just shows the “good things”…

  15. @Sophia The reason we were allowed to wander around was because when we saw the police we smiled and said hello, whereas you screamed and hit the deck. Guilty concious, much :P?

    I hear Jamie Andy and Larry all got three months… thats pretty shitty. They get done for complicity, but the people they were complicit with are let off… not sure how that works.

    @Questions about ID – after they had held me for a while one asked for some, and i showed my drivers liscence. It fits in my wallet snugly, and worked fine.

  16. Interesting, but not at all surprising…I was walking down that street about a month ago after shopping at 3.3 and saw a large police presence at Pure Girl, seemed like it was getting busted for something and the police was videotaping and photographing everything, but this seems like it was even bigger. Basically, Pure Girl should be avoided at all costs.

Comments are closed.