Chinese Government Enthusiastic about Future Partnerships, Signs Memorandum of Intent

According to the UN Information Service, on 19 October, the Government of China, represented by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) signed a Memorandum of Intent (MOI) which paves the way for the establishment of a UNODC programme in Beijing. UNODC Director Antonio Maria Costa and MFA Assistant Minister Shen Guofang also discussed possible strategies to further reduce the impact of illicit drugs in the region. Both officials agreed that a balanced approach, focusing on both prevention and control, is critical in the campaign to eliminate drugs and crime.

In a UNIS press release, Mr. Costa was quoted as saying "This MOI is tangible evidence that the Chinese Government is both serious and forward-looking regarding the drug and crime problems it faces. China recognizes the need for international cooperation to counter non-traditional security threats -- drug production and trafficking in particular." adding also that "China is taking the lead, meeting these threats head-on, and in many cases, stopping drugs even before they cross that nation's borders. The Government is also sharing best practices in drug control with its neighbours -- exactly the kind of outreach we need to see in Asia right now."

Marco Perduca, Executive Director of the International Antiprohibitionist League and UN Representative for the Transnational Radical Party commented on the UNODC-China agreement rimind how “until 2004 China used to execute people in public on the occasion of the 'celebrations' of the International Day Against Drugs- if sure a head-on response, killing traffickers, and 'addicts' is not necessarily the most humanitarian among the best practices available in the field of 'drug control'”.

The new Programme Office, set to open in 2006, will focus initially on the threat of HIV/AIDS, which is spreading via injecting drug use, and, in some cases, through a lack of awareness regarding sexual transmission. The UNODC Office in Beijing will also target the fast expanding trafficking and consumption of amphetamines, control of precursor chemicals, illicit manufacture and trafficking in drugs, as well as drug prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation.

Mr. Perduca, who recently participated in a conference on drug policies in Tiblisi, was also particularly skeptical on the type of forward looking commitment that an autoritarian country like China could ensure on issues such as HIV/AIDS; “in fact,” steted IAL Director “just like her avian flu cases a couple of years ago, China has been in denial both on its AIDS crisis - which originated from the selling of blood by desperatly poor peasants kept in the dark about the existance of the virus and not because of intravenous drug injection - and the issue of narcotics consumption. Knowing too well how the Chinese Government operates to 'control' the activities of the Chinese people, we can only expect hundreds of new little and silent tienammens around the country sanctioned by the agreementy with UNODC for the sake of ridding China of evil substances. This is certainly not what UN Agencies should be about”.

After the announced Mr. Costa also said "China's enthusiastic welcome for a new UNODC Programme Office in Beijing holds great promise for our partnership against illegal drugs. UNODC can advise nations committed to countering drugs, and offer technical assistance, but we cannot do it alone," adding that "there's an old saying, 'actions speak louder than words,' and China's willingness to take this very important step bodes well for everyone involved. UNODC looks forward to working with the Chinese Government, to turning plans into progress, and to getting the new Office in Beijing up and running as quickly as possible."

“Would the noise of police raids and the scream of tortured suspected Chinese 'drug traffickers' or 'users' be loud enough for Mr. Costa?” concluded Mr. Perduca.