Of all the social and economic factors that threaten the survival of mankind – poverty, environmental deterioration, the growing threat of AIDS – nothing is more lethal or socially more damaging than drugs or drug-related crime. According to the statistics, worldwide there are 1.4 billion people who take marijuana, 13 million who take cocaine, 8.6 million who take heroin and 30 million who abuse stimulants. At this time, about 100 000 people die every year as a result of taking narcotics and 10 million people lose their labour ability. The total turnover of the narcotics trade worldwide amounts to more than US$ 500 billion, which equates to 8 per cent of the world’s trade.
Affected by international trends in narcotics, the narcotics trade has become vastly more serious in China.
At the beginning of the 1980s, during the PRC’s open-door policy and economic reforms, foreign drug smugglers began to smuggle narcotics through our country. Chinese criminals colluded with foreign drug
criminals and obtained huge profits from the trade. Several new methods of drug trafficking have been adopted:
• using mobile phones to control the drug trade outside China
• hiring offenders inside China
• decreasing currency exchange
• using post offices to mail drugs
• hiding drugs in other goods or on people’s bodies.
The drug traffickers have built up a complete sales structure and a streamlined modern system closely linked to organised and international crime.
The number of drug abusers rises drastically
Today, China is not only a country of drug traffickers but also of drug users. Many different substances are traded throughout China and a drug consumption market has been formed. The social problems caused by narcotics are becoming more and more serious. By the end of 1999, 681 000 drug addicts had been registered in the whole country, which was 0.54 per 10 000 population. The number of counties (cities or districts) that were affected to drug crime amounted to 2081, 72.5 per cent of the total number in China.
Drug users mainly take heroin, at clubs in cities of medium size, but the use MDMA and ice is also serious.
Expansion of drug addiction and trafficking has caused serious harm
In 1999, adolescents accounted for a large proportion of drug addicts in China. Among 681 000 registered drug addicts, those under 35 years old accounted for 79.2 per cent. The biggest harm of drug addiction does not lie in exhausting people’s money but in damaging the physical and mental health of youth. That is to say, it damages the future and hope of human beings.
Drugs do harm to people’s health and spread all kinds of disease by the sharing of injecting needles.
According to the statistics of the medical health ministry, 17 302 AIDS victims (HIV-positive) were found in China, 72.4 per cent caused by drug injecting. Drug addiction can also cause all kinds of skin diseases and many sexually transmissible diseases.
Drug addiction is a key factor in causing crime and public disorder. In order to get drugs, the drug smugglers often run the risk of breaking laws and regulations. According to the statistics of ten provinces (cities), in 1999 there were 26 000 criminal cases of drug-related crime recorded by the police in China, including homicide, burglary, robbery, fraud and assault. There were 38 000 public security cases (against the Public Security Standards that occurred at the same time. Drug addiction has become a key factor affecting social stability in both cities and rural areas.
Rehabilitation, assistance and education are the only ways to control drugs
Drug addiction is a worldwide disaster. Different countries have different attitudes towards the problem.
Drug abuse is an illegal behaviour according to Chinese law, but drug users are different from other criminals.
Although their subsequent behaviour is shameful, many addicts start using only because their curiosity has been aroused. Even though drug addiction is illegal, a more sensible policy would be to see them as victims rather than merely as offenders who should be punished.
We should help them get rid of their addiction in order to save them and help them reintegrate into society.
They are patients who need help as much as those who are sick. Almost every drug user wants to get out of his or her addiction. Only the community can save them and help them to start a new life. There are comprehensive ways involving family, unit, school and community that can help them get out of the nightmare.
Society should not discriminate against them or treat them as outcasts. If they could give up drug addiction and reintegrate into society, it would be good for their families and the whole society. For its part, the central government has taken strong measures and made great efforts to solve the drug problem.
Bringing rehabilitation into the legal orbit
According to the ‘Decision on Drug Prohibition’ issued by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress on 28 October 1990, ‘in order to protect people’s mental and physical health, keep normal social order and ensure smooth progress in socialist construction, drug taking and drug injecting are strictly banned’.
That is to say, in our country, drug taking is an illegal activity. According to the regulation of the Decision, the offenders in drug taking or drug injecting are subject to detention of not more than 15 days and/or subject to a fine up to RMB 2000. At the same time, drug-taking equipment is confiscated.
Drug abusers should be punished according to the regulation above, and they should also be sent to drug rehabilitation centres, forced to get rid of their addiction and at the same time participate in a re-education programme. Reoffenders should be rehabilitated in a centre of re-education through labour. On 14 March 1997, the Eighth Standing Committee of the NPC adopted the ‘Amended Criminal Law of the People’s Republic of China’, a new Criminal Law issued in China.
The new Criminal Law adopted a reasonable stance on the decision on drug enforcement. The regulations on drug-related crimes have been amended and augmented. The Supreme Court and the Supreme Procurator issued new regulations on punishment of drug-related crimes and made their own interpretation in implementing new Criminal Law and punishing the drug criminals. Carrying out the new Criminal Law is a sign that the legislation for punishing drug criminals in China is becoming more and more mature.
Meanwhile the new Criminal Law provides strong legal sanction for the work of striking at drug-related crimes.
In January 1995, the state council issued the ‘Regulation of Compulsory Rehabilitation Management’, in the second part of which the term ‘compulsory rehabilitation’ is defined. Compulsory rehabilitation means that ‘the government carries out medical treatment, psychological treatment, legal education and ethical education to drug addicts by administrative measures’. The 19 items stipulate that after drug addicts are released from the rehabilitation centre, they should not be discriminated against in entry to education or employment.
Drug enforcement activities
Crime surveys can establish a sure foundation for rehabilitation. Most local governments in China regard the survey of drug crime as an important basic tool and set up surveys and register groups which comprise leaders from the police force, judicial civil administration, public health, and the propaganda or education department. Special work teams have been established in every village, and in towns and cities in every street. These operate from what are called ‘comprehensive control offices’. This work team surveys the number of drug addicts in different districts by looking up the files, interviewing every addict and surveying
the whole local population of addicts. Every addict is registered at the same time; his or her personal file is made available to every member of the team. Most drug abusers have been put into the computer system in the local district. In this way, local government can gain an overall view of the extent of the problem in their area.