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Battles won on drugs, but war rages on
By Jiang Zhuqing, Jiao Xiaoyang (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-05-27 00:10

Drugs and drug-related crime in China are still a blot on the Chinese landscape despite a people's war waged against it a year ago.

A police officer teaches schoolchildren about how to identify opium and other drugs in the city of Lianyungang in East China's Jiangsu Province. [Xinhua]

In the first four months of the year, China arrested 19,000 people responsible for 24,000 drug-related criminal cases, said a senior official with the office of the National Narcotics Control Commission in Beijing yesterday.

Police seized 3,859 kilograms of heroin, 1,005 kilograms of "ice" and 198,000 tablets of "Ecstasy" in the period, Yang Fengrui, permanent secretary-general of the commission, said.

Since late April, campaigns have targeted drug prevention, prohibition and treatment, interception, law enforcement and administrative measures on chemicals used in making drugs.

By the end of 2004, there were 791,000 registered drug addicts in China, including 22,000 added last year, statistics from the Ministry of Public Security indicated.

Comprehensive measures have also been adopted in China for the rehabilitation of addicts and their treatment and recovery, integrated with compulsory measures and social help, Yang said.

In 2004, more than 273,000 addicts received treatment at compulsory rehabilitation centres and 68,000 were treated and re-education-through-labour centres.

A recent questionnaire in Shanghai, in which 40 per cent of respondents failed to identify cocaine as a narcotic, has sounded alarm bells about the drug control situation at the grassroots level.

"The lack of knowhow on drugs among the mass of people spells great danger in fighting narcotics," said Gu Boping, head of the Huangpu Work Station under the Shanghai Ziqiang Social Services.

The station surveyed more than 200 random passers-by, 10 per cent of whom did not regard "ice" as a kind of drug, and 18.5 per cent of whom did not consider marijuana as one.

Even worse, the station conducted a similar survey among more than 200 college students, of whom 32 per cent did not think cocaine was a drug.

Community volunteers

"Drug education at community level plays an indispensable role in curbing drug deals and preventing the increase of drug takers," said Pan Donghai, a social worker at Ziqiang's work station in Shanghai's bustling Nanjing Road.

Ziqiang's stations send voluntary workers to every residential building in neighbourhoods to promote drug knowledge, anti-drug situations and drug-related laws and regulations.

The work stations select key targets in their jurisdiction, usually entertainment places such as pubs and karaoke bars, and give operators and workers regular lectures.

"We'll suggest that local business administrations and the police make education a precondition for these units to get their annual licence approval," said Pan.

In Beijing, communities and judicial departments have explored new ways to control the problem.

Qi Yue, who works with a community correction centre in Chongwen District, said giving up the habit for addicts was hard.

Qi and her colleagues have tried out a correction plan for an addict and dealer who was jailed for two years then put on probation.

"During the first two months, frequent dialogues and psychological analysis will be arranged by the centre to help him give up drug addiction," said Qi.

After two years' supervision, "an assessment will be organized by the neighbourhood committee and local judicial department to decide whether or not he qualifies as reformed and able to return to society," she said.

Like Qi's centre, tens of thousands of communities in cities as well villages in the countryside have been mobilized for the construction of drug-free communities, which is aiming to form the main force in fighting drugs.

(China Daily 05/27/2005 page1)

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