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Treatment or Punishment? – The 2008 Anti-Drug Law in China
A extensive 2008 report, Where Darkness Knows No Bounds, based on research in Yunnan and Guangxi provinces, reports on China’s Anti-Drug Law. The inmates of the government detention centers are suspected illicit drug users. In China, people can be confined by government officials for up to three years without any judicial oversight or a trial.
Compulsary Drug Detention in China
The drug detention centers in China are compulsory and deny inmates access to treatment for drug dependency, and put them at risk for physical abuse and forced labor, according to Human Rights Watch.
The Chinese government explains the law as recognizing illicit drug users as patients. However, they are not even provided with the rights of convicted inmates in the regular prisons.
Reported Abuses in China Drug Detention
Working up to 18 hours per day without pay, and routinely being beaten and denied medical treatment, are some of the complaints, the report documents. Inmates are also denied any effective drug rehabilitation treatment.
In June of 2008, the Office of China National Narcotics Control Commission released a statement, Drug treatment and rehabilitation is in accordance with human-centered principles. In March of 2009, a high-ranking Chinese official stated,
The Chinese Government maintains that drug treatment and rehabilitation should proceed in a people-oriented way.
The Anti-Drug Law did end the practice of sentencing suspected drug users to (RTL) Re-Education Through Labor. However, it increases the compulsory sentence to a minimum or two years from six months.
Anti-Drug Laws and Human Rights
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The Anti-Drug Law gives discretionary powers to police to subject people to urine tests, search them for drugs, and detain people for suspected drug use without any reasonable suspicion. According to the referenced report, police are also empowered to make determinations on the nature of addiction and detain suspects without legal process or a trial.
From a former detainee:
I am a former drug addict. I started using in 1990. I’ve tried to get clean and have been in compulsory labor camps more than eight times. I just cannot go back to a forced labor camp – it is a terrifying world where darkness knows no limits.