New measures tabled for protecting drug addicts
Updated: 2006-08-24 19:20

BEIJING -- China's first bill on drug control will forbid drug-rehab centers from physically punishing or verbally humiliating drug addicts.

The draft anti-drug law, which is under review at a top legislature session, requires drug-rehab centers to take protective measures when drug addicts try to hurt themselves.

The centers should pay drug addicts for work they do, demands the bill.

The draft law, the first specifically designed to crack down on drug trafficking, advocates non-discriminatory environments for people undergoing rehabilitation with regard to access to education, employment and social security support.

"Drug takers are law violators, but they are also patients and victims. Punishment is needed, but education and assistance are more important," Zhang Xinfeng, Vice Minister of Public Security, said in a briefing to lawmakers of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress.

Adopting a more humanitarian approach to drug takers, the law will allow many of them to recover in their communities, rather than being confined to drug-rehab centers as is the case now.

The bill stipulates that drug-rehab centers would only admit frequent intravenous drug takers, people who refuse community assistance or fail in community corrections, and those who live in communities without correction resources.

Rehabilitation centers will be organized to serve people of different ages, gender, and addictive conditions, with abuse and humiliation strictly banned.

The bill orders governments above county level to open drug-rehab centers as needed so drug addicts can volunteer to undergo rehabilitation there.

The number of drug takers grew 35 percent in the five years since 2000 to hit 1.16 million in early 2005, according to police data. Police estimate that China has more than 700,000 heroin addicts, 69 percent of whom are under the age of 35.

Opium, heroin, marijuana, methamphetamine hydrochloride -- commonly known as "ice" -- morphine, and cocaine are listed as banned drugs.

In addition to build a more lenient environment for drug addicts, the draft law is also designed to intensify the anti-drug efforts.

Police will be authorized to force people suspected of taking drugs to take biological body sample tests and proven drug addicts would be registered and forced to undertake rehabilitation.

Those who report their drug addiction to police would be exempted from punishment.

They will be required to sign agreements with relatives, employers or schools they study at, or with village or urban residents' committees, who will then educate and assist the drug addicts for at least a year in an effort to help them shake off drug addiction.

The bill sets strict rules on the clinical use of pharmaceuticals and other chemicals and medicines that could be used to make illegal narcotics, such as methadone and ephedrine.

Regular checks will be required during the production, sale and use of sensitive clinical medicines. The bill stipulates that farms that grow medicines and warehouses that store them will be under state guard.

It requires the owners and managers of discos, bars, and night clubs, to post anti-drug signs in prominent places inside the venues and to report drug takers to the police.

It will also authorize police to search people and their luggage for illegal drugs at key public places such as train stations, long-distance bus stations and border crossings.

"It is important to introduce such a law as China is now facing a grave situation in drug control," said Zhang Xinfeng.

In Beijing alone , police had confiscated more than 180 kilograms of methamphetamine and ecstasy pills by May this year.