Citizens are responsible for China’s anti-drug campaign
Published: Jun 28, 2015 06:58 PM

Last week, my daughter and some of her classmates were selected by her school to submit anti-drug-themed essays for a writing contest as part of the annual International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, on June 26.

Every year around this date, China goes through great lengths to raise public awareness among the younger generation of the dangers of illicit drugs. Citywide education campaigns are organized, news conferences with public security bureaus are held, and public burnings of confiscated drugs are staged. These things are done so the world will know that our country takes this day very seriously.

China, like every other nation, has a drug problem. The surge in personal wealth over the past decade, along with growing import-export industries and access to international transport facilities, have largely contributed to the influx of illicit narcotics such as methamphetamine and heroin. Unfortunately, one day of zero tolerance is not enough.

Up until this date, my teenaged daughter was oblivious of drugs. So imagine her confusion when she was suddenly asked to cram years' worth of statistics, data, trends, demographics and anti-drug ideology for her essay. Aside from making the school and the local government look good, what do my daughter and her classmates really learn from such short-term pubic campaigns?

Earlier this month during the Shanghai International Film Festival, I happened to have been invited to dinner with some filmmakers. I admit I felt out of place in this elite circle of celebrities, but when the topic of drugs came up, my journalist ears also pricked up.

One producer sitting next to me said that the recent high-profile arrests of certain Chinese celebrities who have been caught with designer drugs such as ice was only the tip of the iceberg, pun intended. Without naming names, he said that drug abuse is prevalent in the Chinese mainland entertainment industry, where illicit substances are consumed for a variety of reasons, including creative inspiration, coping with stress, increased productivity and, for many actresses, losing weight quickly after childbirth.

Of course, the most popular reason for taking drugs is to have a good time. According to what I overheard from these filmmakers, celebrities in Shanghai and Beijing regularly hold parties for their A-list friends, and drugs are served openly as a status symbol.

Usually the adoring public turns a blind eye to the vices of silver screen superstars. But with these same drugs starting to seep into the public, especially among the younger generation, concerned citizens are finally taking a stand. Residents in Beijing's Chaoyang district, for example, have made headlines many times over the past few years for reporting celebrity drug parties to the local police.

Chaoyang is the Hollywood Hills of China, where a number of Chinese celebrities own property and hold their drug parties. But thanks to tips provided by concerned locals, dozens of superstars have been arrested, among them kung fu movie star Jackie Chan's son Jaycee Chan, Taiwan actor Kai Ko, singer Li Daimo, film director Zhang Yuan, stars Wang Xuebing, Gao Hu and many others. Just a few days ago, CCTV television host Bian Ce, who also lived in Chaoyang, committed suicide while high on methamphetamine, according to a police statement.

Expat lifestyle weblog Shanghaiist also recently reported an increasing number of drug-related cases within China's foreign communities. Since 2009, 30 percent of drug smuggling cases handled by Shanghai No.1 Intermediate People's Court involved foreign defendants. Various news reports also cite marijuana dealers from Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region for catering to Shanghai's drug-using expats while African immigrants have cornered the Beijing and Guangzhou drug markets.

To combat our nation's drug problem and help protect our children from the corruptible influences of their idols, China needs more citizen involvement such as what has occurred in Chaoyang. Residents need to be on high alert for illicit activity in their communities and dare to report any suspicious activities to the police.

We can applaud our government for its strict stand against substance abuse, but to really root out the problem, we should make every day a Day against Drug Abuse.