Article originally published on the Asia Catalyst Newsletter. 


This summer, China declared a “people’s war” on drugs, with increased policing activity aimed at arresting and—in some cases—deporting, people who use drugs. State run news agency Xinhua reports that this latest crackdown has seen a 72 percent rise in drug-related arrests over the past year. Reports now reveal that the Beijing police are offering rewards to people for turning in others who use drugs, with monetary payouts going to ‘whistleblowers’ after arrests of people who use drugs are made. Writing in, Asia Catalyst Advocacy Director, Shen Tingting, highlights that such policies also amount to a violation of human rights. 


Despite an increasingly common view that the global “war on drugs” has failed and that harm reduction more effectively prevents adverse effects of personal drug use, China continues to implement harsh punishments, public humiliations, and inappropriate treatment to people suspected or convicted of using drugs. The recent crackdown highlights the numerous failings of the Chinese government’s response to personal drug use. Among these failures is the Beijing police policy which monetarily rewards civilians for reporting suspicions of drug-related offenses by other people to police. In practice, this policy creates a hazardous and highly unsafe atmosphere for people who use drugs (PWUD), driving the community away from harm reduction and health services and further underground. As long as individuals are indiscriminately offered compensation to turn in suspected PWUD to law enforcement, public services—including health and HIV prevention services—will remain unsafe for PWUD to openly seek, and a black market will flourish. This will ultimately produce lasting damages to China’s public health record and HIV prevalence.

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