Famed filmmaker Zhang Yuan snared in drugs crackdown

PUBLISHED : Friday, 11 January, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 11 January, 2008, 12:00am

Acclaimed mainland director Zhang Yuan was detained for using drugs after a police raid on his Beijing home on Wednesday morning, Beijing Television (BTV) reported yesterday.

BTV's law programme, Fazhi Jinxing Shi, aired footage showing Zhang taken by surprise when the police broke into his home in the city's Dongcheng district at about 4am.

'I don't know who [you] are. You suddenly broke into my home!' Zhang said, stammering.

When asked what the open bag of ketamine found on his desk was for, he shook his head and answered: 'There isn't any [ketamine].'

But in a spot drug test, Zhang tested positive for ketamine and Ice, also known as methamphetamine. Zhang, 44, gained fame for making independent films such as Beijing Bastards and East Palace, West Palace, which were lauded at international film festivals but banned on the mainland, largely because of their depiction of the dark side of society.

But Zhang gained official approval to make films in 1998 when the authorities lifted a ban on his filmmaking activities.

Four other people, including sculptor Mi Qiu , were also found taking illicit drugs at Zhang's home.

In an earlier raid on Wednesday morning, four people, including sound engineer Wu Lala and cinematographer Xie Zhengyu , were caught taking drugs at Wu's sound company.

Wu is well known in the mainland film industry for working on projects such as Zhang Yimou's Not One Less and Happy Time.

Police mounted the raids following anonymous tip-offs and all nine caught on Wednesday have been detained at the Beijing Public Security Bureau's Haidian district branch.

Taking illicit drugs is not a criminal offence on the mainland and those caught for the first time face up to 15 days' detention. If caught again, offenders are sent for compulsory rehabilitation.

The Beijing Narcotics Control Commission has vowed to step up its crackdown on drugs and increase its searches for drugs in public places to guarantee a 'drug-free Olympics'.