Drug Education Campaign in Qujing, China

A new round of an anti-drug campaign among students in Qujing, a small city in Yunan Province in China was kicked off by a solemn vow by 1400 students on September 29, 2011, “ To save our grandparents and parents from tears and for the future of our country, I will become one of the bricks of the Great Wall of drug blocking (a metaphor), preventing drugs from going into the campus!”

This is a typical vow students are asked to take in a propaganda campaign, either for anti-drug or other purposes such as celebrating the Communist party’s birthday. The students are expected to look serious but sometimes they just cannot help laughing and joking about the words coming from their own mouth.

This anti-drug campaign, specifically aimed at shielding schools from drugs, was launched by the National Anti-drug Office (NADO, set up by the State Council in 1990) and China Narcotics Control Foundation (CNCF, a NGO registered in 1999, but largely funded by the government) on the national level. Sichuan, Jiangsu (both are provinces) and Qujing (a city in Yunnan Province) were designated by the NADO as experimental sites for this campaign. In an “experimental site”, the local government is charged with taking innovative and effective measures to promote the goals of the campaign and then their experience can be drawn by other parts of the country.

It is not coincidence that Qujing, a small city was assigned such a heavy task. Yunnan was bordered with the notorious “golden triangle” where poppies are flourishing, and Qujing is a crucial spot on the route of drug transportation from the golden triangle to in-land cities such as Guangzhou for distribution. According to a report by the intermediate court in Qujing in 2009, from June 2005 to June 2009, it had dealt with 610 cases on drugs in which 641 people were convicted. And out of these 610 cases there are 561 cases of drug trafficking and transportation and 580 people were convicted on these two counts.

Qujing has always been nervous about its drug situation. It has a municipal anti-drug office, which allocated large funds for drug education, for example, every year 300,000 yuan is used to reward government departments, organisations, schools or individuals who have outstanding achievements in the drug education work. Also, it requires teachers in primary schools, high schools and universities to take courses which will prepare them for drug education. In addition, drug education courses are compulsory for students in primary and high schools in Qujing. Teachers will be qualified to teach such courses only if they pass an examination and get the certificate of drug education.

In this most recent campaign, schools are competing to demonstrate their emphasis on drug education. A primary school in Qujing required students to read anti-drug materials, attend lectures, make their own anti-drug posters and write about their own experience of the campaign. But the tone in such writings always sounds a little rehearsed, for example, Li Jinru, a student in the fourth grade (about 10 given the normal school year), says, “ after I read Preventive Drug Education for Primary Schools, I feel drugs are so terrible. We have to realise the harm it can do to people, be cautious about it, keep it at an arm’s length and never make friends with it. We teenagers will hate drugs, determine not to take drugs and stay as good children who are healthy physically and mentally.”

As a Chinese who has stayed in Chinese schools for 16 years, I believe Li Jinru will be praised and rewarded by her teacher for making such a serious comment. But sometimes it is really hard to know any substantive facts or the personal attitude from the comments either by Chinese officials or primary school students. So although Chinese government is determined to safeguard campus from drugs, and has made drug campaigns a political task on all levels of the government and school, it is still hard to say how much these campaigns can achieve.