China Turns Drug Rehab Into a Punishing Ordeal

Human Rights Watch has issued a report on drug rehabilitation center abuse in China. According to the report that largely focuses on Yunnan, forced unpaid labor, degrading treatment, and a lack of basic medical care were among some of the abuses found. The following is one woman’s view of the system, from the New York Times:

Fu Lixin, emotionally exhausted from caring for her sick mother, needed a little pick-me-up. A friend offered her a “special cigarette” — one laced with methamphetamine — and Ms. Fu happily inhaled.

The next day, three policemen showed up at her door.

“They asked me to urinate in a cup,” she said. “My friend had been arrested and turned me in. It was a drug test. I failed on the spot.”

Although she said it was her first time smoking meth, Ms. Fu, 41, was promptly sent to one of China’s compulsory drug rehabilitation centers. The minimum stay is two years, and life is an unremitting gantlet of physical abuse and forced labor without any drug treatment, according to former inmates and substance abuse professionals.

“It was a hell I’m still trying to recover from,” she said.

From AFP
, some notes on the impact of the Anti-Drug Law on rehabilitation centers:

Amid rising drug use in recent years, China passed the [Anti-Drug] law in a bid to standardise its system of drug detention and rehabilitation centres, raising hope of a new climate in which users would be treated as patients, not inmates.

But Human Rights Watch said the system is still run by police, not health care professionals.

It added that the law had actually expanded the power of police to arbitrarily detain individuals without a reasonable suspicion of drug use and force them to take urine tests.

It also increased the minimum sentence to a compulsory drug detention centre from between six and 12 months to between two and three years.

“In the name of treatment, many suspected drug users are confined under horrific conditions, subject to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, and forced to engage in unpaid labor,” the report said.

Human Rights Watch’s PDF report, “Where Darkness Knows No Limits,” can be read online. From the introduction:

In our 2008 report, Human Rights Watch documented what former detainees described as
an “unbreakable cycle” of incarceration, unbearable stigmatization when released back into
the community, unemployment, discrimination, poor health, and finally, in hopelessness, a
return to drug use. Our current research found that this endless cycle continues. While the
Anti-Drug Law purports to make the reintegration of drug users into society a priority,
policies alerting the police when a former detainee checks into a hotel, applies for a job or
registers for harm reduction services reinforces the overwhelming stigma they already face.


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