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Chinese Government Holds Half Million Drug Users in Slave Labor Camps

posted 10:41 PM EST, Fri January 08, 2010
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Chinese Government Holds Half Million Drug Users in Slave Labor Camps © Photo Credit: Ndy Kethdy

New York based Human Rights Watch has released a report condemning Chinese govt. practices of involuntary detention of drug users, forced unpaid labor, beatings and a denial of medical care.

In a scathing report, the human rights organization Human Rights Watch has accused the Chinese government of widespread and institutionalized abuses against drug addicts. According to the report, at any given time a half million or more Chinese drug addicts are held in detention ‘rehabilitation camps’ and many are forced to work without pay, denied medical services, abused and offered no addiction treatment. Treatment durations begin at 2 years, but can be longer, at the discretion of the local officials.

Drug users are sent to the camps at the discretion of local police. Drug users receive no charge, trial or opportunity to defend themselves against accusations. The majority of the half million Chinese in the camps are heroin addicts.

Although treatment is supposed to occur at ‘community based rehabilitation centers’ treatment experts on the ground in China say they’ve yet to see any such facility in use. Wang Xiaoguang, the director of Daytop (an American treatment organization) in Yunnan Province described the addiction clinics as business ventures run by local police – where drug addicts are sent out to work at local farms or factories for the benefit of their captors, and where treatment services are “nonexistent”. Wang told reporters, “I don’t think this is an ideal situation for people trying to recover from drug addiction.”

Prior to 2008, drug addicts were sent to forced labor camps with other criminals. The passing of the 2008 Anti-Drug Law was supposed to improve treatment conditions by ending the practice of labor camp detention and calling for officials to pay for any work done by camp inmates. In reality, the law has simply induced officials to rename the practice of drug user detention and to ignore any calls for substantive change – and under the provisions of the new law, officials can now remand drug users for up to 7 years.

Additional charges from the Human Rights Watch report include:

  • Denying detained drug users medical care – even those with serious illnesses like tuberculosis or AIDS
  • Physical abuse, including beatings and fatal beatings

Joe Amon, Human Rights Watch’s director of health and human rights called for the Chinese govt. to respect the human rights of the Chinese drug users, and declared, “Warehousing large numbers of drug users and subjecting them to forced labor and physical abuse is not rehabilitation.”

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