Sunday, November 29, 2009

Crazy Story from SW China

China attracts all different kinds of expatriates.

From The New York Times:

Image of Dali from

DALI, China — Justin Franchi Solondz, an environmental activist from New Jersey who spent years evading charges of ecoterrorism in the United States by hiding out in China, was sentenced to three years in prison by a local court on Friday on charges of manufacturing drugs in this backpacker haven.

After serving his time, Mr. Solondz, 30, who is on the F.B.I.’s wanted list, will be deported to the United States, where he faces charges stemming from what the authorities say was his role in an arson rampage that destroyed buildings in three western states as a member of a group related to the environmental extremist organization Earth Liberation Front. He was indicted in absentia in 2006.

The story of Mr. Solondz’s life on the lam spanned three continents, involved at least two aliases and ended in a smoky bar in one of the world’s most authoritarian countries.

Mr. Solondz’s journey started in the fall of 2005, when he joined his mother in Italy for a wedding and then traveled around Europe and Asia. His parents say he stopped communicating with them in March 2006, just before the F.B.I. announced the charges.

The trail went cold until March 2009, when the Chinese police arrested Mr. Solondz here in the mountains of Yunnan Province after he was caught with drugs and fake Canadian identification, according to his parents. During a daylong trial last month, Mr. Solondz pleaded guilty to drug charges and asked to be deported to the United States.

Read On
Click the link and read this whole article. It is bizarre. An Evergreen State student turned narco-terrorist turned drug peddler in southwest China turned Chinese prison inmate.

I've been to Dali. I went there with my friend, Joseph, in the summer of '06 (sounds like I just missed Mr. Solondz). I'd heard all sorts of things about the place. Most of them did, indeed, turn out to be true. It's a different world there; a true hippie paradise. I was horribly sick my whole time there battling giardiasis so I didn't get to see the place as well as I would've liked. But I saw enough to know that it is a one-of-a-kind place in China.

I was shocked that such a place existed in China. I can't imagine that it will much longer though. The article makes it sound like China is on to what goes on in Dali and that authorities aren't going to turn such a blind eye on the place anymore.


Anonymous said...

I was there in 1985. I did see the names of PLA soldiers who were sentenced to death for narcortic trafficking on the walls when they were stationed there. I was shocked then.

Anqi in Kansas City, Missouri

Mark said...

So I suppose there's a long history of this kind of stuff there. Interesting.

Lloyd Lofthouse said...

Maybe the United States should let Justin Franche Solandz spend his jail time in China. I have no idea what the conditions are like in a Chinese prison but I'm guessing it isn't as nice as the United States.

As a matter of fact, since America's prisons appear to be overcrowded, why not pay China to house some of our most dangerous felongs?

I haven't checked to see what the penalties are in China for a drug charge, but I'll bet he's better off in the states. Not too bright.

Anonymous said...

It's hard to believe that Justin Solandz couldn't even maintain his situation without resorting to drugs. He was on the run correct? so what the f*** was he thinking getting into drugs in a country like CHINA!?? If you cant openly smoke or "do" your drugs in public it might be a good idea not to mess with the shit while on the lam. It just seems that he could have gone on for years if he had followed a simple low profile. Many on the run live out the rest of their lives in freedom with happiness, good friends and family and the safety of using their brains. Why risk going to prison for a brief high (or some money) when you can have happiness and freedom for the rest of your life sober? I guess we all make mistakes and his mistake will ruin a good portion of his, and many others, lives.