SCMP Thursday, January 11, 2001

Rave youths held in China drug centres


More than 10 Hong Kong youths are being given compulsory treatment at mainland drug rehabilitation centres after being arrested for party-drug offences in Shenzhen.
The detainees are aged between 17 and their early 20s and are serving compulsory three to six-month terms for possession of Ecstasy and other rave drugs, Zhang Dongsheng, head of the Shenzhen narcotics office, told the South China Morning Post.
The disclosure, which reflects the growing trend for Hong Kong youngsters to take drugs at rave parties in Shenzhen, has drawn concern from human rights watchers.
Human Rights Monitor director Law Yuk-kai said the youths should not be forced to undergo what might be inappropriate treatment. In Hong Kong, he pointed out, offenders had to agree to rehabilitation treatment. "Compulsory treatment takes away a person's freedom," he said. "If they don't want the medical treatment, they should not be forced to undergo it."
Sophia Woodman, research director of Human Rights in China, suspects the teenagers were sent to the centres without trial. "There isn't any proper process that I know of for deciding who should be sent to such a centre, and what the standards are for it, and any kind of review process," she said. "Like other types of administrative detention, the decision is just made by the police."
Mr Zhang said inmates were required "to do some manual work, read books about the danger of drugs, and receive treatment". But a frequent visitor to Shenzhen drug rehabilitation centres said they provided mainly detoxination and looked like prisons with people living in cramped cells. "Three to four people were squeezed into a cell of about 50 square feet," he said, adding that cells of less than 300 sq ft housed up to 30 people.
Inmates were not free to walk around the centre and were monitored by closed-circuit television. Those from Hong Kong were bullied by mainlanders, who are mostly from the north.
Legislator Cheung Man-kwong urged the SAR Government to offer help to those caught abusing drugs on the mainland. "The Government should talk to the mainland authorities to arrange for the teenagers to return to Hong Kong and give them proper help."
The number of people arrested at the Lowu checkpoint for trafficking in marijuana, Ecstasy and "ice" jumped from 28 in 1999 to 73 last year.
A Security Bureau spokeswoman said mainland officials had only been required to notify the SAR of arrests or detentions of Hong Kong people since January 1. She was not aware of any previous incidents.