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CHP Cracks Smuggling Case

Last month, a middle level court in Jin Hua City, Zhejiang Province, began to pass sentence in the case of Canadian Zhu Chunlin, and Chinese Zhu Xiaogang, Yu Yanjun, Yu Lichun, Chen Zhigen, and Cao Guangjun, who are accused of smuggling and reselling 2925 fossil pieces.
The smuggling ring was formed is 2003. In April and October, Zhu Chunlin and Zhu Xiaogang purchased illegally collected fossils from Yu Yanjun and Yu Lichun. In December of that year, Zhu Chunlin and Zhu Xiaogang concealed the fossils in a container packed with carved tree stumps and exotic eroded stones to smuggle into America.
In April of 2004, Zhu Chunlin and the other gang members took many of the fossils to Chen Zhigen’s tree stump carving workshop and awaited an opportunity to smuggle them out of the country. Later that year, on 1 November, Chen Zhigen and the others tried smuggling the fossils out in a shipping container, but the fossils were detected by Jin Hua customs officials. Another eight items that they attempted to export through the postal system were seized by Shanghai customs officials.
In September of the same year, Yu Yanjun carried fossils that he had illegally acquired and sold them. Eighty-one of these fossils were detected by Shanghai customs authorities as the smugglers mailed them through the postal system, but the remainder evaded detection and were mailed out of the country.
According to Chinese law, selling the types of fossils that Zhu and his associates were handling is a criminal offense and the maximum penalty is ten year’s prison sentence. For the smuggling of these fossils, however, the maximum sentence is the death penalty.
The Beijing Cultural Heritage Protection Center’s “hot line” telephone service played a role in breaking this case by supplying details and some legal advice. The hot line service was created two years ago, financed by a grant from the Jim Thompson Foundation of Thailand, and the role the hot line and CHP’s training played in breaking this case illustrates the good use the public makes of CHP’s hot line service.
CHP’s training in the Shanghai and Zhejiang areas has been particularly effective. CHP has conducted more than ten different training sessions in these two areas, with more than 2,000 people participating, including students, neighborhood committees, government officials, police, and customs officials. These training sessions have raised their consciousness of cultural heritage protection, and they can identify activities that are destroying cultural heritage. Many people now know about the CHP hot line service, and have both the telephone number and email address.
In the Zhu Chunlin case, a worker’s son in Chen Zhigen’s workshop attended a CHP training session. Starting in January 2004, they often contacted us by the hot line to report suspicious activities in the workshop. In the latter part of April that year, as the illegal fossils were concealed in the workshop, they were in daily contact with us, calling from safe places. We advised them of precautions to ensure their safety, and also told them to keep gathering evidence of the smuggling. At the same time, we informed the police and notified a few trustworthy people in positions of authority so that they could watch the development of the case, until finally the arrests were made.
As for the fossils detected in the postal system, CHP had been invited to conduct training by a Shanghai neighborhood committee and participating in this session were a number of neighborhood organizations, including representatives of the local post office. Afterwards, the CHP hot line number was posted on the post office’s wall.  When the postal officers noted these fossils being mailed to America, they called the number. We told them to delay posting the materials, and immediately informed customs officers, who investigated and apprehended the culprits.
We shall be following the case closely to see what verdict is rendered and sentence passed by the court.
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