Chinese lawmakers are expected to adopt the country's first anti-drug law to curb drug-related crime, reduce the soaring number of users and provide more appropriate care for under-aged addicts.
The law's final draft was "ready for adoption", the Law Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) told the 31st session of the NPC Standing Committee on its opening day Sunday, when the third and possibly final deliberation of the began.
The number of drug takers in China grew 35 percent in the five years to 2005 to reach 1.16 million, according to official police data.
Police estimate China has more than 700,000 heroin addicts, 69 percent under age 35.
Observers said the anti-drug bill showed more humanitarian concern for users as such a law would allow many to recover in their communities rather than being confined to rehabilitation centers, as current regulations require.
In the law's second draft, pregnant women or those breastfeeding while drug dependent, as well as minors under 14, are deemed inappropriate for compulsory isolated drug rehabilitation.
But some lawmakers said compulsory drug-rehab measures should not be considered inappropriate for all minors as it was "an important measure to educate, save and help addicts shake off the obsession with drugs".
"If some parents are unable to help their addicted children rehabilitate, and community corrections have proved ineffective as well, then young addicts should receive isolated compulsive drug-rehab," lawmakers said.
In an isolated environment, young addicts could receive treatment specially designed for them.
This, they said, would be more effective and afford them support from both family and society.
In light of this, the third draft changed compulsory rehabilitation for minors "from a mandate to a choice".
After discussion with the State Council (or cabinet) and the Public Security and Justice ministries, the third draft also changed the age limit for compulsory rehabilitation from 14 to 16.
This was in line with China's Public Security Administration Law that said "minors under 16 are not covered by the regulations of administrative custody".
The third draft, hopefully to be adopted at the ongoing session, also added that "urban resident committees and township governments should assist, supervise and urge communities to adopt correction measures on addicts who are not eligible for a compulsory one".
Lawmakers said the introduction of an anti-drug law was imperative to prevent and seriously punish drug-related crimes, protect public health and maintain social order.
Opium, heroin, marijuana, methamphetamine hydrochloride - commonly known as "ice" - morphine and cocaine were listed as banned drugs in the draft.