Miles de personas que usan drogas en China son encarceladas en condiciones inhumanas.

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By Josh Torrance

China has consistently taken an incredibly hard-line stance against people who use illegal drugs. As the government enforces strict punishments, often in the name of rehabilitation, both human rights abuses and drug addiction rates are worsening.

There are an estimated 12 million regular drug users in China, and illegal production ofmethamphetamine and ketamine is surging in the country. President Xi Jinping has described illegal drugs as "a menace for society [that] severely harm health, corrupt will, destroy families, consume wealth, poison society, pollute the social environment, and lead to other crimes". As a response to this perception, authorities are detaining thousands of people in squalid conditions for drug use or possession.

Under Xi’s presidency, the government has also begun cracking down on the rising numbers of affluent users, including government officials and even Jackie Chan’s son. Meanwhile, those found to be trafficking drugs face even harsher penalties; thousands of people are executed annually for such offences, although precise numbers are unknown due to government secrecy. Such policies have been described as having "solid support among sections of the Chinese population" by Shen Tingting of Asia Catalyst, a regional NGO.

Despite a handful of therapy-based rehabilitation clinics, some new methadone programmes, and asocial acceptance of cannabis use in certain provinces, China remains one of the worst places in the world to be a drug user. Until 2013, the government operated highly controversial forced labour camps for a variety of offenders. Following heavy criticism, inmates who had committed non-drug related crimes were released early, and replaced by people who had been found to use or sell drugs. The camps have been rebranded as drug detention centres, in which people are incarcerated for up to seven years without trial, and continue to undertake forced labour for no pay.

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Thumbnail: Flickr CC dnlspnk