Beijing (AFP) Jan 7, 2010
China's drug detention centres are rife with human rights violations including forced labour and other abusive treatment despite a new law meant to fix the system, Human Rights Watch said Thursday.
The New York-based rights group said in a report that the 2008 Anti-Drug Law actually made addicts' suffering even worse by failing to ensure that adequate treatment -- or even basic medical care -- was available.
"The Anti-Drug Law compounds the health risks of suspected drug users while abusing the rights guaranteed to them under Chinese and international law," the report said.
"In detention, they receive little or no medical care, no support for quitting drugs, and no skills training for re-entering society upon release."
Amid rising drug use in recent years, China passed the 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.
It quoted former detainees interviewed for the report as saying some inmates had died in detention as a result of abusive practices.
China has seen illicit drug use take off in recent decades as incomes have soared and more leisure-oriented lifestyles have taken hold.
China's government insists that it is a nation ruled by law, but reports of authorities trampling on the basic rights of citizens remain commonplace.
Public anger burst into the open last year over accusations of abusive conditions in prisons and juvenile detention centres that led to several deaths in custody, prompting authorities to announce an overhaul of such centres.
On Wednesday, just ahead of the official release of the HRW report, China's ministries of health and public security ordered prisons, hospitals and drug rehabilitation centres to improve the care on offer.
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