At least fifty expats have been detained in two separate drug raids in Shenzhen, China.
According to the official police report, Nanshan District police raided a party at 4:00 in the morning and rounded up 491 party-goers.
One-hundred-and-eighteen of those caught tested positive for illegal substances, mainly marijuana.
According to ShenZhenDaily, an American reveler, who asked not to be identified, described the raid as “sudden” and “like a stampede.”
“My friend almost got run over. If it was more people someone could have definitely got hurt.”
He also said he felt “like a prisoner of war” and described the humiliating experience he endured while being tested for drugs.
“They made sure it was my pee, by literally looking at me do it.”
He was released from police custody at 11:00 on Sunday morning.
Another expat, who also asked not to be identified, described the raid in more positive terms.
“People were trying to run away and that caused a little stampede, but the police used a very simple but efficient tactic by narrowing the space and getting people to sit down.”
The unidentified expat also described the drug raid as “a way to send a signal to the expat community.”
Eyewitnesses say hundreds of people — both Chinese and foreign — were loaded onto buses and taken to the police station.
Another raid took place in Shekou and resulted in 93 people being detained by police, 50 of whom were foreigners.
Two of the people held were believed to be drug dealers.
Those deemed innocent of any offenses were allowed to go, though at different times.
A person who answered the phone at the Nanshan District Public Security Sub-bureau said the raids had been planned for “quite some time” and called them “a special operation by the municipal bureau.”
There is no word on what will happen to those found guilty of drug use, possession, or dealing, but it will almost certainly harsh.
China is well-known for having some of the toughest drug laws in the world. According to the King County Bar Association, Chinese law calls for “criminals who smuggle, sell, transport or manufacture large amounts of drugs shall be sentenced to death…” even for as little as fifty grams of heroin.
The Association also reported that people were executed publicly for drug-related offenses back in 2001, and one of those executions even took place on public television.
“In 2001, over fifty people were publicly executed for drug crimes, with at least one being aired on public television. In 2005, 55 people were reported to be executed leading up to the June 26th celebration.”
Even drug possession for personal use can be harsh. According to Shen Tingting, the advocacy program director for Asia Catalyst, personal drug use is classified as a “minor administrative offense” but it can still earn a person six years in a detention facility.
These draconian laws seem to have had little effect on drug use.
Police data from 2006 show that the number of Chinese taking drugs increased 35 percent from 2000 to 2005 alone.
China’s drug policy has also failed to keep up with its economic success, offering few services for “marginalized drug users” and no strategies to reduce harms.
In fact, China’s growing middle class may be contributing to its drug problem.
China’s rapid economic growth has created a vast middle class, and synthetic drugs are more and more popular among these white collar workers and entrepreneurs.
With harsh penalties and few resources for users, drug users would be wise to leave China off their list of travel destinations.
Drug raids like the one in Shenzhen are not uncommon in the world’s most populous nation, and those caught should not expect a light sentence.
[Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images]