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The World's Worst Places for Addicts: China

Here in the United States, if you get busted for drugs it feels like it is the absolute most awful thing that could happen to you (for some of us). In other countries they have much worse consequences to being caught with drugs or even with drugs in your system. In China they have a zero tolerance standpoint on drug use. Approximately anywhere from 2,000 to 15,000 people a year are executed in China for assorted drug offenses.

China was the first country in the post- World War 2 period to implement the death penalty for drug offences. The first ever yearly overview of national drug control legislation, prepared for the 1948 session of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs, recognizes a range of capital drug offences in Chinese legislation, including for manufacturing, planting, transportation and sale, and relapsing drug use. Additional death penalty offences are given if the people involved in drug activities are civil servants or other public officials. China is the only member state acknowledged in the report as having the death penalty for drug offences. Despite the fact that the report describes the legislation as ‘a temporary emergency measure’ after the war, China remains the leading global executor for drug crimes today.

Drug-related crimes are escalating in China. Chinese law enforcement establishments have minimal tolerance for illegal drugs, and they occasionally conduct extensive sweeps of bar and nightclub districts, targeting narcotics suppliers and drug users. China guards its death penalty as a state secret even though the usage of capital punishment is commonly thought to dwarf the collective total of the rest of the world. It is estimated that there were as many as 7,500 executions in 2006, anywhere from 2,000 to 15,000 in 2007 and at least 1,718 people in 2008. China declines to expose how many people have been sentenced to death each year.

The amount of executions for drug offences is unknown. It has been claimed that the courts handled 14,282 drug-related cases between January and May of 2009 and registering 6,379 convictions with severe consequences alternating from imprisonment to capital punishment; according to the Vice President of Supreme People’s Court in China, Zhang Jun. China’s criminal law makes it a potential capital crime to traffic, create or transport more than 50 grams of heroin or 1,000 grams of opium. Since 2007, the Supreme People’s Court has been authorized with final judicial review of all death sentences, which may lead to a reduction in the number of people executed.

Even for more minor drug offenses, the penalties are harsh. Chinese authorities incarcerate drug users in compulsory drug detention centers that deny them access to treatment for drug dependency and put them at risk of physical abuse and unpaid forced labor. Half a million people are confined within compulsory drug detention centers in China at any given time, according to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). The minimum stay is two years, and you can be sent to these centers simply for failing a random drug test.

Detentions are meted out by the police without trials, judges or appeals. Created in 2008 as part of a reform effort to grapple with the country’s growing narcotics problem, the centers, lawyers and drug experts say, have become de facto penal colonies where inmates are sent to factories and farms, fed substandard food and denied basic medical care.

Meals consist of steamed buns and, occasionally, cabbage-based swill. Showers are allowed once a month. Heroin withdrawal is treated with a pail of cold water in the face. Inmates are forced to work up to 18 hours a day without pay. The minimum 2 year stay can be extended by 5 years if authorities so decide.

Even when you get out, the nightmare is not over. Those arrested for drug offenses are branded addicts on their national identification cards, which makes applying for jobs and welfare benefits acts of futility. And because the local police are automatically notified when former offenders check into hotels, traveling often involves impromptu urine tests and the possibility of humiliation in front of colleagues. At least 98 percent of those who leave the drug detention system relapse within a few years.

Researching all of this information about China and how it is for drug addicts there made me SO grateful to live in the United States. Can you imagine what it would be like if they implemented the death penalty for drug use here or used labor detention camps for treatment? We would have a much lower population rate, that’s for sure. It is so nice to live in a country where if I am having an issue with using drugs or caught with drugs I can ask for, and get, real help. If you or a loved one are struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll free 1-800-951-6135.


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