One of China's most-wanted drug suspects has been snared in a joint operation by mainland and Philippine police targeting a multimillion-dollar international ring. Senior officers also said yesterday that Hong Kong was a distribution centre for the network and city police had played a role in the operation. Liu Yuejin, deputy director of the Ministry of Public Security's anti-narcotics bureau, said police arrested 15 mainland suspects, including alleged drug kingpin Shao Chuntian in Quanzhou, Fujian province , and five in the Philippines last Tuesday. The Philippine arrests involved three mainlanders seized at Manila airport and two Filipino suspects held at an undisclosed location. Officers in the Philippines seized 350kg of crystallised methamphetamine, or Ice, in various stages of manufacture and destroyed a 3,000 square metre processing factory. One tonne of ephedrine, which could be used to make 600kg of Ice, was found at a warehouse in Shenzhen. Officials said that once processed, the haul could have been sold for 255 million yuan in Fujian, Shao's home province, or double that if trafficked in the Philippines. Fujian Provincial Narcotics Control Commission director Fu Shijie, who was in charge of the arrests, said Shao became involved in the drug business in 2001, mainly in Southeast Asia. Mr Liu said Hong Kong was an important international transit point for the drugs. He added that if Hong Kong residents were found using drugs on the mainland, they could be sentenced to re-education through labour. He said the situation with illegal drugs in Guangdong had deteriorated more quickly than in Yunnan , which also has a serious drug problem. 'Guangdong's environment and transport links help criminals hide, manufacture and sell drugs,' he said. Mainland police say they uncovered more than 36,400 drug-related crimes and caught 45,100 suspects, seizing 4.79 tonnes of heroin and 4.9 tonnes of Ice in the first 11 months of the year. The crackdown has squeezed heroin supplies and sent prices for the drug soaring. Mr Liu said the number of heroin users had dropped as many were turning to Ice.