Anti-terror experts are expected to join the country's port inspectors to help safeguard national security and people's health, a leading quarantine official said yesterday in Beijing.
"(China's) quarantine watchdogs at various levels have so far not found any suspected substance as having a real terrorist nature," said Ge Zhirong. "Nonetheless, we should be prepared for the worst."
Ge, vice-minister of the State Administration for Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, said his agency has paid more attention to fighting against terrorism, in response to the global situation in recent years.
High on the 2005 agenda for the agency is establishing anti-terror expert teams at ports, Ge said at a press conference yesterday.
"As required by the State Council, we have formulated a contingency plan to deal with public health emergencies, and to strengthen anti-terror work at ports and borders," he said.
In fact, the State inspection and quarantine agency is a member of the nation's leading group for anti-terror tactics, the vice-minister said.
The agency keeps an eye on suspicious biological and chemical items during its daily border inspections, Ge said.
He revealed that inspectors handled 67 suspected items in Chinese ports in the six months following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States.
"We have organized a group of relevant experts from the agency to analyze terrorist acts taking place in foreign countries for any new methods they may be employing, and we then try to come up with counter-measures," he said.
"Our ultimate goal is to ensure our country, ports and people are safe, and that people remain healthy."
The vice-minister did not specify a timetable for the anti-terror teams at Chinese ports. He did however say that establishing such teams is a gradual process, and the intended result is that the team will be part of a national anti-terror co-ordination mechanism.
Asked about international co-operation in this regard, Ge said many developed countries have offered to work with China in combating terrorism in ports and along borders.
Also at yesterday's press conference, Ge said Chinese quarantine inspectors have so far not found any Sudan I, a potentially cancer-causing colourant, in foods produced and sold in China. Ge's agency banned imports of Sudan-I-tainted foods and began checking Chinese and foreign foods for the carcinogenic substance following the disclosure in late February that the red dye had contaminated hundreds of food items in the United Kingdom.
The official also confirmed the highly contagious avian influenza or bird flu, now wrecking havoc in some of China's neighbours, has so far not surfaced in China.
Looking ahead towards the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, Ge said his agency is laying out detailed plans to contribute to the success of the event.
Source: China Daily