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Beijing demands drug users register with police
Updated: 2005-05-12 14:36

The Beijing Public Security Bureau has issued a notice requiring all users of illegal drugs to register with police over the next month or be forced to quit their habits with the threat of time in labor-reeducation camp, Beijing media reported Thursday.

Drug abuse is one of the leading causes of AIDS in China. Guangdong Province plans to offer drug addicts cheap and moderate methadone taken only under health workers' supervision. [file photo]

As part of an action called the "Comprehensive Survey and Registration of Drug Users," the bureau wants all users to register on their own by June 10, according to the Beijing News.

The Municipal Drug Control Commission announced the registration drive at a teleconference Wednesday.

Those who register will be assigned a target date to quit drugs and receive help from the police and their local neighborhood committees, the paper says.

It adds that those who do not register on time will be "forced" to quit over three to six months and anyone who relapses will receive a labor-reeducation camp sentence.

About 26,000 people are using drugs in Beijing, a city of about 13 million, the Beijing News reported.

Of those, 4,000 are over age 35, but the vast majority are said to be teenagers. The drug-using population of Beijing and elsewhere in northern China is smaller than southern areas such as Yunnan Province and the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, where opiates come straight from the Golden Triangle.

"The aim is to ascertain the whole city's drug-use situation," the newspaper said. "The goal is to use the strengthening of management, help and education for drug users."

A Western diplomat who specializes in healthcare said the registration drive is probably geared toward out-of-town heroin and opium users.

If the police are sincere, he said, they may put heroin users on methadone, which costs 5 to 10 yuan ($1.20) a day instead of 200 yuan a day for heroin.

Marijuana and ecstasy are also common in Beijing.

Wealthy artists, musicians and actors use marijuana to inspire their work and people from the far western Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region are said to use and sell hashish in Beijing.

But because there is no known precedent for mandatory drug-user registration, the diplomat said, it is hard to predict an outcome.

"This is an unknown question," he said. "I can only take a wait-and-see position."

Beijing AIDS activist Hu Jia, who knows intravenous drug users, said police only use "force" to make people quit drugs and those users usually restart their habits. Special police facilities for drug users are effective mainly because they cut off supply, Hu said.

He does not expect to see a needle exchange for heroin users or any other voluntary program.

"All the service the government has given to drug users and all the appeals, none of it has come to any result," he added.

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