WU LIN is a casualty of China's losing battle against drugs. Mr.
Wu is in the Kunming Forced Detoxification Center, nestled in the
hills just outside the Yunnan provincial capital of Kunming, for
his second attempt to kick the drug habit. His first try a year ago
lasted only a few months.
"My family is paying for me this time," says the truck driver
and heroin addict, who looks older than his 28 years. "I'm afraid I
might start again when I get out."
Perched on China's southern border just across from the lush
mountain poppy fields of Burma, also known as Myanmar, Yunnan
Province is China's front line in the increasing drug abuse and
violent narcotics trafficking spreading across China.
Antidrug police here claim they have made headway against the
drug flow from Burma through China to the United States and Europe
by passing new laws and tougher penalties. They're also bolstering
enforcement to more than 2,000 police officials, cooperating more
closely with other countries, and stepping up compulsory drug
In May, China agreed with five Southeast Asian countries to
launch a $10 million joint-action plan to coordinate narcotics
enforcement and control chemicals used in drug production. The
program operates under the United Nations, which provided $3
million to Yunnan for its antinarcotics fight.
Growing all over
Officials claim heroin and opium hauls fell 19 percent and 45
percent respectively from 1993 to last year, virtually curbing drug
movement through Yunnan. The 39,000 registered drug addicts in the
province represent a one-third drop from 1990 levels. Police also
insist that narcotics plants are not grown here, although they
admit to having a crop-substitution program. Marijuana can be seen
growing in many rural areas.
"The drugs transiting in our province are decreasing," says Chen
Cunyi, the province's drug-enforcement chief.
But other officials in Yunnan and Beijing admit the drug crisis
is worsening: Trafficking thrives under the eye of corrupt local
officials, almost 90 percent of patients in police-run treatment
centers relapse, and drug-related crime approaches epidemic
proportions throughout China.
In May, Public Security Minister Tao Siju admitted that Yunnan
is a haven for international drug rings and that the quantities of
seized narcotics was actually growing. He told a meeting of senior
leaders that "urgent efforts are needed to crush the country's
increasing drug crimes," reported the official China Daily.
China needs to "organize a battle of the whole society against
drugs," says Jiang Pusheng, a police official who heads the Yunnan
Narcotics Control Commission. "We have reduced the number of new
users in our province and made great progress in the
narcotics-control field. But the fact is the source of drugs is
outside our country. So the problem is still very serious."
"Drugs are the major cause of rising crime in China," says a
Western diplomat familiar with China's drug-enforcement efforts.
"Every province now has a detoxification center, showing how widely
the drug problem has spread."
Along with addiction, a dangerous offshoot, acquired immune
deficiency syndrome or AIDS is also on the rise in China. With
intravenous drug use spreading beyond Burmese border communities to
coastal and other inland provinces, Chinese health officers admit
that the number of AIDS-infection cases, officially estimated at
1,500, is probably closer to 10,000.
Stunned by the resurgence of the drug problem that thrived under
imperial and nationalist governments but was virtually wiped out
after the Communist victory in 1949, Chinese authorities maintain a
rigid approach to dealing with such complicated social issues. For
decades, Communist officials pointed to the eradication of opium as
well as other prerevolutionary vices such as prostitution and
gambling as evidence of the superior morality of socialism. …