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Drug addicts to face criminal charges in China
     BEIJING, June 23 -- A new narcotic control law is being mapped out as part of China's efforts to combat drug use, production and trafficking.

Chinese drug lord Zhuang Chucheng (2nd-L) stands for trial at the Intermediate People's Court of Shenzhen in south China's Guangdong province June 22, 2005.
Chinese drug lord Zhuang Chucheng (2nd-L) stands for trial at the Intermediate People's Court of Shenzhen in south China's Guangdong province June 22, 2005. Zhuang was sentenced to death and executed Wednesday for making and selling huge quantities of the drug methamphetamine hydrochloride, known as 'ice'. Between August 1996 and July 2000, Zhuang's ring manufactured 31.125 tons of solid and liquefied 'ice' in the south of China, local media reported. (newsphoto)
    A draft of the law, listing drug taking as a crime, is currently being scrutinized by experts, according to the China National Narcotics Control Commission (NNCC).

    "Hopefully they can be submitted to the State Council for a first review by the end of this year," said Li Yuanzheng, deputy director with the NNCC Office.

    At the moment China has no laws specifically aimed at tackling narcotics. Although existing laws acknowledge the illegal possession of drugs, they fail to classify drug taking as a crime.

    Legal experts have welcomed the new legislative efforts.

    According to Professor Yang Hongtai from the Shanghai-based East China University of Politics and Law, drug taking does great harm to society and in failing to categorize it as a crime the nation falls short of the legal support necessary for a serious crackdown.

    Statistics from the Ministry of Public Security indicate the number of registered drug addicts in China reached 791,000 by the end of last year. More than 2,200 of the nation's 2,863 counties were found to have drug users.

    China's anti-narcotics measures are facing a serious challenge as production and sale of drugs such as ice and ecstasy rise, experts say.

    Han Shannong, a police officer from Nanjing, capital of East China's Jiangsu Province, said many drug addicts cannot be prosecuted because there is no legal basis for criminal charges.

    Besides preparing anti-drug legislation, the country's drug control watchdog is also lobbying top lawmakers to take steps to control the chemicals used in drug production.

    While the country is poised to lay out a comprehensive set of laws to curb the drug problem, Yunnan Province -- China's anti-drug frontier -- has taken a step further.

    In March, the province revised its local drug regulation, which was first issued in 1991, adding a number of revolutionary clauses.

    under the new rules the province's drug rehabilitation and detention centres must include special zones for those with AIDS, in which the number of beds must account for 20 to 30 per cent of the total.

    "Official statistics show about 41 per cent of current HIV/AIDS carriers in China are drug abusers," Sun said.

    Also as part of the revised rules, the province plans to provide 36,000 more beds in its compulsory drug rehab centres, with about 7,000 to be reserved for HIV/AIDS patients.

    The revised regulation also requires an annual survey of the number of drug abusers in the province to enforce a sound registration system.

    The measures echo a consensus reached among domestic experts that knowing the number of drug abusers is a vital step towards crushing the drug market.

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