How Long Will this Shadow Plague Me?

To our family, which has experienced much hardship, my daughter’s qualification for university renewed a sense of longing and hope for life. From the day that we found out that she had been accepted, I constantly found myself overflowing with the pride of a mother.

A police officer checks a passenger’s identification in Guangdong province during an antidrug operation. If registered as a drug user in China’s database, people may be marched to the police station and held for hours pending compulsory testing.

However, I would never have thought that immediately after my daughter was accepted, I would bring such humiliation to her, subjecting her to such shame and disgrace in front of many others on my account.

On August 15, 2008, my daughter and her classmate accompanied me to the Public Security Office to process a household registration certificate [identification papers]. On the way my daughter’s classmate kept congratulating her, and we entered the branch office, unsuspectingly smiling and chatting all the while. At the office, I explained our purpose to a female officer, who then asked us to wait momentarily. After a while a male and a female officer came in, and the female officer said to me, before my daughter and everyone else present, “Please submit to compulsory urine testing.” For someone who originally intended to accompany my daughter to process identification papers, the sudden reversal that now I was undergoing urine testing led me to ask in frank surprise: “Why?”

The female officer then proceeded to say, “We require urine tests for all you people with a history of drug use that come in to process identification papers.”

Everyone else there handling their own business, my own daughter, my daughter’s classmate—all their eyes were fixed on me, some filled with disdain, others with shock.

Especially my daughter, whose face had now paled to sickly green and white. In that moment, I felt the ground give way below me, for my period of drug use had been very short, and very few people even knew about it. Now everything was ruined, especially for my daughter, for how was she to face her classmate after this? At the time, I didn’t even know how it was that I followed the female officer into the restroom, or how I came back out.

Back at home, gloominess, pain, and guilt all knotted together inside me. One misstep leads to everlasting strife! I flipped open the drug prohibition law, and saw that Section 32 states the following: The public security division can enact necessary inspections of suspected drug users, and those being inspected must comply…” I could not help but ask myself:

Yes, the public security division can enact necessary inspections of suspected drug users, but I had gone to help my daughter process her identification papers! What was the basis of suspicion? Can it be that the police could simply take my history of drug use and use it as evidence, and thus require me to take a compulsory urine test? Furthermore, at the at the time there were many people present. Even if they wanted me to take a compulsory urine test, does it mean that they have no need to protect my personal privacy?

This humiliation of compulsory urine testing after quitting drugs has virtually destroyed the happy relationship that I had with my daughter. Even if they wanted me to take a compulsory urine test, does it mean that they have no need to protect my personal privacy?

This humiliation of compulsory urine testing after quitting drugs has virtually destroyed the happy relationship that I had with my daughter. I think back to that moment, to the suspicion, sadness, and disappointment in my daughter’s eyes; I think back to my return from the compulsory drug rehabilitation center, when I talked unreservedly with my daughter; I think back to the promise that I made to her then. I was so scared, but after my fears had abated and things were well with my daughter again, such an incident had to happen. Thankfully, the urine testing proved my innocence, and thankfully my daughter understood that I have devoted myself to the work of harm reduction and AIDS prevention and treatment. However, I still worry about what would happen if one day I take medicine because I am sick, and the medicine happens to contain an opiate? What if I once again find myself in such a situation of humiliation and helplessness? This trip with my daughter to the public security office has left a deep, deep shadow on my wound that had been slowly recovering. Who knows how long this shadow will plague me?