Police are grilling seven suspects in connection with the theft of hundreds of tons of smuggled frozen meat that authorities had buried under concrete. They say residents in Yunnan province dug up the meat and took it away, probably to sell it.
A total of 249 metric tons of frozen meat, including beef, tripe and chicken feet, was buried 5 meters deep and sealed with concrete at a garbage disposal plant in Jinping county after it was seized between April 8 and 12.
About 100 police officers guarded the site for more than three days, until the concrete was fully set. After they left, however, the plant was overwhelmed by hundreds of residents, who broke through the concrete and took the meat, probably with the intent to sell it, Xu Yang, deputy head of Honghe prefecture, which has jurisdiction over Jinping, said on Saturday.
Yunnan TV, which exposed the incident on Thursday, said the problem is not a new one. Every time the anti-smuggling office has buried smuggled food in landfills in the past couple of years, residents have dug it up.
Xu, who also heads the Honghe public security bureau, said seven suspects were detained after authorities sought information on the whereabouts of the vehicles that transported the meat. The suspects allegedly sold substandard food.
"An emergency meeting was held on Thursday night to discuss what to do. A leading group headed by the county's Party secretary was established," said Wu Huahao, head of the Jinping government.
After a preliminary investigation, police have some leads on the whereabouts of some of the stolen meat, he said.
He added that authorities have been combing markets for illegal sales of frozen meat and have confiscated 3 tons of meat found without proper paperwork.
A total of 22,000 square meters at the garbage plant's disposal site have been disinfected, he said.
The police have been asked to root out and strongly crack down on those responsible for smuggling frozen meat and taking meat that has been seized.
Honghe shares 848 kilometers of border with Vietnam, including 502 kilometers in Jinping county.
Xu said smugglers have been making full use of the natural conditions, with no barriers in the border areas, to smuggle rice and frozen meat into China in recent years.
County head Wu vowed the authorities would maintain a tough stance with regard to meat smugglers. More measures will be taken to prevent such meat from crossing the border into China, including additional patrols to seize illegal meat, he said.
Wu added that the county has plans to bring in factories that can safely dispose of animal products.