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Draft Law Urges Protection of Drug Addicts
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China's first bill on drug control will forbid drug-rehab centers from physically punishing or verbally humiliating drug addicts.

The draft anti-drug law, which is under review at a top legislature session, requires drug-rehab centers to take protective measures when drug addicts try to hurt themselves.

The centers should pay drug addicts for work they do, demands the bill.

The draft law, the first specifically designed to crack down on drug trafficking, advocates non-discriminatory environments for people undergoing rehabilitation with regard to access to education, employment and social security support.

"Drug takers are law violators, but they are also patients and victims. Punishment is needed, but education and assistance are more important," Zhang Xinfeng, Vice Minister of Public Security, said in a briefing to lawmakers of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress.

Adopting a more humanitarian approach to drug takers, the law will allow many of them to recover in their communities, rather than being confined to drug-rehab centers as is the case now.

The bill stipulates that drug-rehab centers would only admit frequent intravenous drug takers, people who refuse community assistance or fail in community corrections, and those who live in communities without correction resources.

Rehabilitation centers will be organized to serve people of different ages, gender, and addictive conditions, with abuse and humiliation strictly banned.

The number of drug takers grew 35 percent in the five years since 2000 to hit 1.16 million in early 2005, according to police data. Police estimate that China has more than 700,000 heroin addicts, 69 percent of whom are under the age of 35.

(Xinhua News Agency August 24, 2006)

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