The Single Convention on narcotic drugs and the prevention of drug addiction


The Single Convention on narcotic drugs and the prevention of drug addiction


Author: Y. L. Yao
Pages: 1 to 8
Creation Date: 1958/01/01

The Single Convention on narcotic drugs and the prevention of drug addiction

Y. L. Yao
Counsellor, Ministry of the Interior, China


The international control of narcotic drugs, which has been in force for nearly half a century, came into being partly as a result of international efforts to cope with China's opium problem; the initial regime of control was closely related to the suppression of opium-smoking in China. It is significant that out of nine resolutions adopted by the first meeting of the International Opium Commission held at Shanghai in 1909 under the sponsorship of the United States Government, five dealt with the opium situation in China. The 1912 Hague Convention devoted a whole chapter - namely, chapter IV - to control measures in regard to the opium traffic and addiction within Chinese territories. Information relating to the application of these measures was regulary reviewed by the competent international control agency on the basis of annual reports submitted by the governments concerned. This practice was discontinued only a few years ago, when such information was no longer required under the revised standard form for annual reports.

Progress made in China has had far-reaching effects on the international control of narcotic drugs throughout the world, for the Chinese people and Government have not only undertaken internal measures of control, but have also shown a deep interest in the development of an international regime of control and made constructive proposals towards this end. Since 1909, a growing number of anti-narcotics organizations have been set up by the Chinese people in order to call upon the Government to pursue a firm and positive policy of control, and to participate directly in international activities aimed at the suppression of the abuse of narcotics. Thus, for example, there was established in October 1910, at Peiping, a Chinese National Anti-narcotics Association whose main objective was to bring about the abrogation of opium treaties concluded between China and other countries concerned and to hasten the completion of a domestic control programme. In 1918, a universal association for the suppression of the abuse of opium was organized to promote control measures on both national and international levels. Its activities in the international field included (i) urging, by telegram, the Versailles Peace Conference to incorporate provisions regarding narcotics control in the peace treaties; (ii) requesting the Universal Postal Union to prohibit the mailing of narcotic drugs; and (iii) seeking the co-operation of diplomatic representatives accredited to China, and other foreign nationals, in the implementation of international control measures. Later, in anticipation of the International Opium Conference about to be convened at Geneva in November 1924, a Chinese National Narcotics Suppression Association was formed as an expression of the Chinese people's enthusiastic support for the international co-operative efforts. It transmitted to the conference an appeal calling for the adoption of strict measures of control and the limitation of the production of narcotics to meet medical and scientific needs. The appeal was signed by more than 4,200 civic bodies, representing a total membership of about 4,663,000 persons.

With regard to the policy of the Chinese Government, a firm basis was laid down in 1924 by Dr. Sun Yat-sen, founder of the Republic, when, on the occasion of his assumption of the office of the Commander-in-Chief of the National Government, he declared: "The public opinion of the Chinese people, especially of law-abiding and respectable citizens, is against the abuse of opium. Any attempt to legalize the opium traffic or to appease the evil forces of opium, however expedient it may seem to be, is contrary to the public interest .... Our campaign against opium admits of no compromise and should never be given up. If any government authority seeks a truce in this campaign in order to promote its selfish and short-sighted interest, it should be regarded as committing an act of treason." Unfortunately, this policy could not be immediately carried into effects, as China was not yet unified at that time.

As soon as unification was achieved by the National Government in 1927, following the successful Northern Expedition, Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek proclaimed the suppression of the abuse of opium as one of the primary tasks in the administrative programme. Time after time he reminded the Chinese people that the fulfilment of this task was an essential step towards administrative reform and national reconstruction. In his opinion, determined efforts must be made to blot out the evil of opium which had plagued China for more then a century. At the height of the governmental campaign against opium, the Generalissimo himself took over the post of Director-General of the Suppression of the Abuse of Opium and drew up a plan for suppression by stages. The basic objectives, as stated in one of the major legislative measures enacted at that period, were to carry out international obligations in respect of the control of narcotic drugs and to bring about the abolition of the abuse of narcotic drugs in China.

The Chinese Government pursued these objectives even when faced with extreme difficulties in the course of the SinoJapanese war. As a matter of fact, Generalissimo Chiang declared during the war: "The campaign against opium is no less important than the war of national resistance; they should be prosecuted with equal vigour." Thanks to these unremitting efforts, the centuries-old scourge of opium was gradually eliminated in China.

By the end of World War II, the Chinese Government was confronted with the problem of curing and rehabilitating numerous drug addicts living in areas formerly under Japanese occupation. It also had to maintain effective measures of control in the rest of the country in order to prevent a revival of drug addiction. To deal with these post-war problems, the Government appointed Mr. Wang Te-pu, the present Minister of the Interior, to be chairman of the National Narcotics Suppression Commission. During the war, Mr. Wang, as director of the Department of Civil Affairs of the Shensi province, had distinguished himself in his service in connexion with the suppression of the abuse of narcotic drugs. As chairman of the National Commis- sion, he paid equal attention to domestic measures of control and to international co-operation. His internal policy consisted in "using patient persuasion before applying stern penalties, and giving first priority to the prohibition of drug addiction ". Internationally, he called for close co-operation with governements of friendly nations in the implementation of the existing international conventions, as well as in the adoption of more effective measures of control. In his opinion, the world production of opium far exceeded the legitimate needs; it was therefore imperative that the principal opium-producing and opium-consuming countries should meet to negotiate an agreement to limit the cultivation of the opium poppy and to put the supply of raw opium under strict control, so that the illicit traffic in opium and its preparations might be suppressed. His views were embodied in a proposal submitted by the Chinese delegation to the third session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs. After adoption by the Commission, the proposal formed the basis of resolution 159 E (VII) of the Economic and Social Council, thus paving the way for the convening of the United Nations Opium Conference in 1953.


Within the system of international control, every kind of illicit activity relating to narcotic drugs, whether it be addiction, cultivation, transport, selling, manufacture or possession of drugs, should be made a punishable offence by national legislation. To leave any of them free from legal sanction is to create a loophole in the whole system liable to reduce the effectiveness of international control. However, a study of the existing international conventions shows that while they generally condemn narcotics offences, they contain no provisions on penalties for drug addiction. Their silence on that subject is presumably due to the following considerations:

  1. Drug addicts are in some cases found to have acquired the habit through using drugs as sedative or curative medicine. They are more to be pitied than condemned. Therefore, to punish them seems undesirable on humanitarian grounds.

  2. Drug addicts are all victims of illicit traffickers. It is the latter that should be subject to severe punishment. Once the sources of supply were cut off, there would be no problem of drug addiction.

  3. In view of the wide divergencies in the policy and practice followed, by various governments with regard to the problem of drug addiction, it seems inadvisable for an international convention to impose a uniform obligation of adopting punitive measures against drug addicts. Such a convention would probably be unacceptable to some states and would be acceptable to others with misgivings. In any case, the effectiveness of the convention would be reduced.

  4. Drug addiction is a matter of domestic concern, and has no international significance. The problem of whether it should be outlawed is for each country to decide and has no place in an international convention which is mainly designed to co-ordinate governmental efforts in the suppression of illicit traffic.

The proposed single convention follows the pattern of the existing international agreements in that it makes no provisions on the penalty for drug addiction. It merely states in article 50, chapter X, that the parties should use their best endeavours to secure the compulsory treatment of drug addicts with a view to restoring their health. By laying emphasis on the rehabilitation aspect of the problem rather than on the prevention, it shows a more lenient attitude towards addicts than the policy of punishment followed by certain countries. In our view, the whole approach calls for a thorough re-examination in which the following factors must be taken into account:

1. The Causes of Addiction

While the causes of addiction are many and varied, drug addicts may be classified into two or three categories. Several years ago, Mr. Garland H. Williams, District Supervisor of the United States Bureau of Narcotics, in an article entitled "The Narcotic Addiction Problem and a Suggested Solution ", referred to two types of drug addict, as follows:

"The medical addict, who is sick and under the professional care of a physician who has properly determined that narcotic drugs are medicinally required in the treatment of the disease. Such an addict secures drugs without difficulty."


"The criminal addict, who has no recognized medical need for narcotics and takes the drug only to satisfy his destructive craving, and in order to carry on his criminal activities."

At the first session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, Dr. Jorge A. Lazarte, the representative of Peru, classified addicts into three groups - namely, incidental addicts with a well-balanced personality who acquire the habit as result of improper medical management, and who are generally easily cured; psychoneurotic addicts who resort to the use of drugs to obtain relaxation; and psychopathic addicts who exhibit definite asocial and amoral behaviour and who generally have a criminal background. Among these three groups, cases of the first two can easily be prevented without recourse to punitive measures.

In China as well as in other countries, drug addiction attributable to medical treatment is not regarded as a punishable offence. It must be pointed out, however, that with the discovery by modern medical science of effective substitutes for narcotic drugs in the treatment of diseases, the possibility of acquiring the habit through medical dosage is becoming smaller. Furthermore, as the use and supply of narcotics for therapeutic purposes are nowadays placed under strict control in almost every country, a patient can have access to the drugs only by his physician's order and prescription. This also helps to reduce the number of medical addicts. According to our information, in recent years over 90% of addicts are found to have acquired the habit not as a result of improper medical treatment, but because of their abnormal and inexcusable craving.

Since drug addiction is liable to inflict bodily harm on the addict, it is certainly a matter of concern to the community. Legal sanction should therefore be provided as a matter of national and social policy. In a sense, drug addiction is a social offence comparable to an attempt to commit suicide, which is punishable by law in certain countries. Penalty for drug addiction is further justified by the fact that it is invariably associated with other criminal activities. As Mr. Harry J. Anslinger, United States Commissioner of Narcotics, pointed out in his book entitled The Traffic in Narcotics,

"A spot check of any police record bureau will disclose the fact that many addicts were criminal offenders long before taking on the drug habit. Make no mistake about it.... We are not dealing with something hospitalization alone will cure, but a dreaded scourge that penetrates infinitely deeper and requires a much greater effort to uproot."

While some addicts have previous police records, others become criminal after acquiring the drug habit. An addict lives in mental disorder and will stop at nothing to get the drug to satisfy his craving. His shameful way of life poses a threat to social order and good morals. According to a recent report released by the Metropolitan Police Board of Tokyo, some 70% of juvenile delinquents in Japan are addicted to "hiropon", a strong, stimulating and habitforming drug ( Nippon Times, 18 August 1953). Official reports published in various countries have also definitely established the link between the use of marihuana and crime. The criminal character of drug addiction also lies in the fact that addiction spreads from one person to another like an infectious disease. The Commission on Narcotic Drugs has given increasing attention to this problem of contamination and urged member states to take effective measures of prevention. At its tenth session, the Commission requested the secretariat to study the problem of drug addiction in conjunction with the problem of crime prevention, and called the attention of the Social Commission to the relationship between these two problems. All this clearly shows that drug addiction, far from being a personal problem, is generally regarded as a curse to the world community.

For the reasons stated above, a large number of states have come to regard the abuse of drugs as a punishable offence. There is also a tendency to impose heavier penalties for it. Mr. Anslinger, United States Commissioner of Narcotics, in advocating stringent punishment for drug addicts, wrote in his book quoted above:

"Strong law, good enforcement, stiff sentence and a proper hospitalization program are the necessary foundations upon which any successful program must be predicated. These, plus an alert and determined public, will go a long way toward blotting out the problem. Probably the greatest reason for an increase in drug addiction has been the failure on the part of the legislators, or police and of other officials to observe these important fundamentals."

It may be recalled that, at the first session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, Mr. Nasroah Entezam, the representative of Iran, stated that a bill then before the Iranian Parliament included a paragraph providing for the death penalty for any one found smoking opium. A recent report of the Commission indicates that during its twelfth session "several representatives urged that criminal addicts should receive longer prison sentences and that other addicts should be forced to undergo as long a period of medical treatment as was necessary to complete their rehabilitation ". According to the same report, "in Egypt, in China and in the United States, experience had shown the effectiveness of long prison sentences, and the possibility of giving longer sentences was under consideration in India". The report further points out that "while representatives were generally in favour of the treatment measures proposed by the study group of the World Health Organization, they nevertheless felt that addicts, particularly criminal addicts, could not always be treated solely on a medical and not on a punitive basis".

Criminal addicts have always been liable to punishment under Chinese law. As early as 1813, the eighteenth year of the reign of Emperor Chia Ching of the Ching Dynasty, a set of regulations governing the penalties for opium-smoking was promulgated. This was followed in 1839, the nineteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tao Kwang, by another set of regulations consisting of thirty-nine articles. Article 14 of the new regulations provided: "All opium addicts must rid themselves of the habit within a period of one year and six months. Any person, whether a governmental official or an ordinary citizen, who fails to do so shall be liable to the death penalty." As a result, most addicts submitted themselves to a cure, and it appeared then that the evil of opium-smoking would be brought under control. Unfortunately, diplomatic setbacks suffered by the Manchu Government in the next few decades led to an upsurge of drug addiction in China.

Since the establishment of the Republic of China, penalties for drug addicts have varied in severity in accordance with the over-all suppression programmes adopted by the Government at various stages. In 1940, when the target date for gradual suppression of the abuse of narcotics was reached, the Government decided to increase penalties for drug addiction to strengthen its policy of total prohibition. For this purpose, special regulations were promulgated to supersede the section in the Penal Code dealing with opium offences. Under these regulations, the first offence in the case of drug addiction is punishable by imprisonment of from one to five years, and the second offence by life imprisonment or the death penalty; heavier penalties may be imposed on government employees convicted of addiction. Mr. Wang Te-pu, at that time director of the Civil Affairs Department of the Shensi province, was convinced that, to carry out the policy of total prohibition, public opinion must be mobilized to denounce narcotics offenders, and law-enforcement agencies must undertake the prosecution of narcotics cases without fear or favour. He therefore announced various measures to encourage the general public to inform on drug addicts. To set an example, he himself brought a charge of opiumsmoking against one Tang Chi-ling, president of the Higher Court of the Shensi province. These measures were so successful that within a few years narcotic addiction was stamped out in the whole Shensi province with the exception of its northern part, which, under the control of Chinese Communists, remained a base for the illicit cultivation of and traffic in opium and other narcotic drugs.

After World War II, the Chinese Government attached even more importance to punitive measures against drug addicts in pursuance of its policy of" placing special emphasis on the prohibition of addiction ". In enforcing penalties already provided by law, it sought first to persuade addicts, by means of education and publicity, to give up the habit voluntarily. Those who rifled to do so within a specified time limit were subject to punishment in accordance with the law. This method proved most effective. Later, in 1955, the Chinese Government enacted the "Regulations for the Suppression of the Abuse of Opium and other Narcotic Drugs in the Period of National Emergency" in order to check narcotics-smuggling activities carried on by Chinese Communists. While following the general policy of" using patient persuasion before applying stern penalty ", the new regulations increased penalties for drug addiction by providing imprisonment of from three to seven years for the first offence, imprisonment of a term equivalent to one and two-thirds of the original sentence for the second offence, and life imprisonment or the death penalty for the third offence. These regulations have also proved to be very effective.

2. The Root of the Narcotics Evil

At the end of World War II, the Chinese Government was determined to suppress as soon as possible the abuse of narcotic drugs in areas formerly under Japanese occupation. Mr. Wang Te-pu, who was then in charge of the national narcotics administration, believed that the best way to do this was to place special emphasis on the prohibition of drug addiction. He said: "Special attention must be given to the prohibition of drug addiction, which is the root of the narcotics evil. Narcotics can be a blessing if used properly for therapeutic purposes. They become harmful only when people are addicted to them. If there were no addicts, narcotics would not be sold at such high prices as to induce profit-seekers to engage in the illicit traffic. Furthermore, illicit traffickers, once they have repented, can easily renounce their unlawful activities. It is much more difficult for addicts to obtain a complete cure, because they are physically and mentally under the influence of the drugs, which takes a considerable length of time to overcome. From the administrative point of view, once the prohibition of addiction is successfully carried out, illicit traffickers would be out of business, and the problem of illicit traffic would be solved by itself. The prohibition of drug addiction is indeed the key to the solution of the whole problem. Therein lies our primary task." To carry out this programme, he sent inspectors to the areas concerned to check the progress of the prohibition work. As a result, within a set period of two years, drug addiction was brought under control.

The Commission on Narcotic Drugs now has at its disposal a number of excellent studies made by United States and Canadian experts on the subject of the cure of addiction. The Division of Narcotic Drugs of the United Nations Secretariat has also given increasing attention to the work of conducting surveys and preparing reports in the field of drug addiction. Its has made available to the Commission some analytical studies of the information on drug addiction supplied by governments. These documents are of great value to member states in their work of combating drug addiction. As was rightly observed at the eleventh session of the Commission, the problem of drug addiction provided the touchstone for all the others, and for the Commission's work as a whole. Mr. Panopoulos, the representative of Greece, pointed out at the same session that the Commission could not afford to neglect this problem, since its ultimate objective was to abolish addiction throughout the world. Earlier, at the ninth session of the Commission, Dr. H. R. Wei, the representative of China, commenting on the draft of a model code for the application of the 1953 Opium Protocol, stressed that the reference to opium-smoking in annex II C (C) of the draft code should be interpreted in the spirit of resolution X of the 1953 Opium Conference, which underlined the obligation of all parties to the Protocol to suppress opium-smoking with the least possible delay. All these statements reflect a general concern over the need of suppressing drug addiction.

It may be argued that since the entire system of control is designed to attain the ultimate objective of eliminating addiction through suppression of the illicit cultivation and manufacture of and traffic in drugs, it is not necessary to place emphasis on the prohibition of addiction. Although this argument appears to be logical, past experiences nevertheless show that a control policy which seeks to eliminate addiction by the devious means of controlling the sources of supply without an outright prohibition of addiction is of little practical value. As long as the supply of drugs to addicts can yield huge profit, the illicit market will flourish. At the third session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, Col. C. H. L. Sharman, the representative of Canada, pointed out that the disparity of prices on the illicit market was largely responsible for encouraging the traffic. As an illustration, he mentioned that opium which was sold for ten dollars a pound in Bombay fetched 600 to 900 dollars a pound in North America. It is no wonder, therefore, that illicit traffickers have no scruples about violating the law by using modern transportation and communication facilities to engage in smuggling activities. According to an estimate made by the Advisory Committee on Opium and other Dangerous Drugs of the League of Nations, the amount of drugs seized represented no more than 10% of the total volume of the illicit traffic. The situation at present would seem to be about the same, as can be seen from the following findings of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs:

  1. On the illicit traffic in raw opium, the tenth session of the Commission noted that, as in the past, it seemed to be concentrated in the Middle and the Far East during 1954. As far as its extent was concerned, it would seem that "the traffic was now at about the same level as twenty-five years ago ". The Commission also observed in the report on its eleventh session that the figures of seizures showed "no apparent decline in the traffic in opium ". "During the past five years the raw opium seizures had averaged approximately 48,000 kg. per year; the 1955 figure, 49,100 kg, though incomplete, had already exceeded this average and could be expected to be still higher."

  2. As regards morphine, the Commission, at its tenth and eleventh sessions, noted that there was an increasing tendency for conversion into morphine to take place near the area of cultivation of the opium poppy.

  3. On the illicit traffic in heroin, the Commission, at its eleventh session, observed that the traffic was still going on on a large scale. The 1955 figure of seizures -143 kg 486 gr - though incomplete, had already increased by about one-third in comparison with 1954.

  4. At its eleventh session, the Commission also noted that the ingenuity of smugglers regarding concealment of drugs appeared to be limitless, and expressed its sympathy with the extremely difficult task of national preventive services.

In view of these facts, one cannot but agree with the following remarks made by the representative of Turkey at the twelfth session of the Commission:

"In order effectively to combat the illicit traffic, it was not enough to concentrate on origins - the problem must be studied as a whole from a wider point of view.... Attention must therefore be paid to the other related aspects of the question-namely, on the one hand to the control system prevailing in the countries of transit, particularly at the frontiers, and, on the other, to the attraction offered by the consumer market, which encourages traffickers to cross frontiers. The question had three integral phases, and if both legislative and administrative measures were not applied with the same degree of severity in all three, there would always be a flow of traffic."

3. The Basic Purpose of an International Narcotics Convention

An international narcotics convention is designed to ensure the elimination of the abuse of narcotic drugs in the interest of the health and well-being of mankind. It is based on humanitarian principles, rather than on national interests, as in the case of international treaties of a political and economic nature. Therefore, in drawing up such a convention, paramount consideration should be given to the most effective ways to attain the noble objective. To the extent compatible with the principles of international law, the convention should provide for strict measures to meet actual needs. This is especially true with regard to the prohibition of drug addiction, for the reason that after World War II most countries in the Far East have given up the system of state monopolies for opium and that there is already a general trend towards making drug addiction a punishable offence. The time has come for the proposed Single Convention to make more drastic provisions on this subject than the existing conventions. While such provisions may be at variance with the position taken by a few countries, it is hoped that the latter will still find it possible to accept the convention in the interest of the world community, or, in case of absolute necessity, to accept it with reservations. In this connexion, one cannot but admire a statement made by Mr. Vaille, the representative of France, at the eleventh session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, which gave full expression to the spirit of compromise. Commenting on the "clause on inquiry" in the 1953 Opium Protocol, he said: "Even if the protocol had contained a mandatory clause on inquiry which some countries regarded as an infringement of their national sovereignty, the French Government would no doubt have accepted it, although there was no drug addiction or opium production problem in France. It would have done so in a spirit of international solidarity, which should be the basis of all the work carried out by the United Nations in the narcotic field."

Furthermore, as the proposed convention is concerned with the welfare of mankind, its success depends not only on faithful observance of their obligations by the governments concerned, but also on the understanding and support of the peoples throughout the world. The abuse of drugs has caused great harm to the international community. Drug addiction is abhorred by good citizens everywhere. If punishment for addiction were made mandatory under the proposed convention, the general public would surely support the measure and help their governments to enforce it. This would ensure the success of the convention. On the other hand, if the convention did not provide penalties for drug addiction, it would disappoint the peoples of the world and invite public criticism. It might even adversely affect the work of narcotics control in certain countries. For in countries where addiction is punishable by law, enforcement of the penalty would be made difficult by the fact that their national legislation does not accord with the provisions of international convention. In countries where addiction is not punishable by law, the fact that the convention does not provide any guidance in this respect would make its observance a matter of formality.

4. The Protection of Nationals residing abroad

There is yet another important reason why provisions should be made in the proposed convention requiring the parties to adopt the necessary legislative measures to render drug addiction a punishable offence. That is that such provisions would enable a state which finds any of its nationals residing in another state addicted to narcotic drugs to call upon the state of residence to take appropriate measures of prohibition. Under present circumstances, a state can enforce the prohibition of addiction only within its territorial jurisdiction; it can do nothing about its nationals residing abroad who are drug addicts, if drug addiction does not constitute a punishable offence under the national legislation of the state of residence. The only remedy is to include in the proposed convention a suitable clause whereby each party would undertake to adopt the necessary measures to render drug addiction punishable under its domestic laws. Such a clause would serve to protect the welfare of all persons, regardless of their place of residence, and is in conformity with the interest of humanity.

During the second Geneva Opium Conference, held in 1925, the Chinese National Association for the Suppression of the Abuse of Opium sent to the conference a strong appeal on the question of drug addiction among overseas Chinese. It was stated that in view of the undeniable fact that a large number of Chinese nationals residing in the colonial territories of western Powers, such as the Straits Settlements and the Dutch East Indies, were addicted to opium and other dangerous drugs, the governments concerned should enter into an agreement with a view to taking effective joint action to put an end to this situation. Acting on popular demand, the Chinese Government also instructed its delegation to call upon the western Powers to take preventive measures within their colonial territories. As the conference failed to comply with this request, the Chinese delegation withdrew from the conference. In a statement explaining the reason for its withdrawal, the Chinese delegation made clear that it could not accept any proposal that did not give definite assurance that the legalized trade in prepared opium would be brought to an end within a reasonable period of time, as suggested by the Chinese delegation. At about the same time, the United States delegation also withdrew from the conference on the instructions of its government because of the failure of the conference to adopt its proposal regarding the limitation of the production and supply of opium.

Now that most countries have given up the system of state monopolies for opium, the problem of drug addiction among overseas Chinese is becoming less and less serious. However, the Chinese Government is still deeply concerned with occasional reports in recent years about the abuse of drugs among Chinese nationals residing in certain foreign territories. In the interest of protecting overseas Chinese from the evil of drugs, it seems to the Chinese Government all the more desirable that the proposed convention should require the parties to adopt strong measures of prohibition applicable to all persons, regardless of nationality, who reside within their territories.


Another weapon against the abuse of drugs is publicity and education, both of which should go hand-in-hand with legal sanction. In the present draft Single Convention, no new provision on publicity and education has been added. What is more, it does not even include the flexible provision of article VII of the 1925 Geneva Agreement, which reads: "The Contracting Powers shall use their utmost efforts by suitable instruction in the schools, dissemination of literature and otherwise, to discourage the use of prepared opium within their respective territories, except where a government considers such measures to be undesirable under the conditions existing in its territory."

The reason for this omission is probably the fear that under certain conditions publicity on the harmful effects of taking drugs may lead men to sample them out of curiosity and become addicts in the end. Far back in the days of the League of Nations, a resolution was adopted to call the attention of member states to this possible outcome. During the various sessions of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, it has also been stressed that in countries where narcotic drugs are not a serious problem, publicity and education against their abuse can sometimes do more harm than good.

While we do not deny that the above point of view is to a certain extent valid, we must say that on the whole, publicity and education against the misuse of narcotics will reap far more benefits than evil effects, and they are necessary weapons to fight against addiction. If fear of ensuing evils at some time or in some localities prevents the inclusion of a stipulation to that effect in the Single Convention, it might be a case of " refraining from eating for fear of choking ", as the Chinese saying goes.

From the point of view of criminal jurisprudence, we find that criminal policy has changed with social evolution. Gradually, it has shifted from the traditional theory of retaliation to that of prevention. As we know, causes for the commission of crimes are closely related with the political and social conditions of the time. Modern criminal legislation therefore places emphasis on education and conversion of the criminals. The object lies more in the prevention of future offences than in the mere infliction of penalties for crimes already committed.

In the case of narcotic drugs, their harm and the stern measures of control are usually not clearly understood by the people. Therefore, in the administration of controls we must first make use of education and persuasion for the dual purpose of reforming the offenders and preventing would-be offenders. An opportunity should be given to the offenders to reform, and it is only when they have failed to do so that they should be punished according to the law. This would be consistent with the modern concept of jurisprudence.

Basing itself on such concepts, the Chinese Government has included in all its narcotics laws a provision to the effect that, before an addict is sentenced, he is to be given a period of grace during which he is educated and admonished so that he may rid himself of drug addiction and free himself from his impending penalty. Only if he fails to reform during the period of grace is he punished according to the law. Experience has shown that this way of combating addiction works wonders.

Speaking at the tenth session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, Mr. J. H. Walker, the representative of the United Kingdom, said: "The public, and especially young persons, should be educated to consider opium addiction as a pernicious vice to be reprobated. That would go half way towards solving the problem. Many people in many countries do not at present consider opium or cannabis smoking as an evil." He illustrated his statement by referring to the temperance movement in the United Kingdom. The speaker should be commended for his well-founded statements.

As addiction is a social problem, to attack it by government action alone would be insufficient. To eliminate addiction completely, we must mobilize public opinion so as to change the attitude of the addict toward the use of narcotics, making him feel ashamed of what he is doing and voluntarily submit himself to medical treatment.

The most effective ways of arousing public opinion are publicity and education, which can show the people the harmful nature of narcotic drugs and induce them to wage anti-narcotic campaigns in support of government actions.

China's earliest anti-narcotics movement started in 1835 during the reign of Emperor Tao Kuang of the Ching Dynasty. The Government, in response to the deep concern shown by most enlightened people at that time at the growing evil of opium-smoking and to their suggestion of strict prohibition, took drastic steps to implement the prohibition policy. Later on, an anti-opium campaign was launched by the Christian community, and clinics were set up to give treatment to opium addicts. The press also gave wide publicity to the harm done by smoking opium and called for effective measures of control. In 1906, in the thirty-second year of Emperor Kuang Hsu's reign, the Government decided to prohibit opium-smoking, and enacted laws to enforce the decision. An Opium Suppression Bureau was established to take charge of control matters. At the same time, the people were encouraged to organize benevolent associations to assist the addicts, so as to help the Government carry out its prohibition policy. After that a mass movement against opium was started, and anti-drug societies such as the Chinese People's Opium Suppression Association, National Opium Suppression Association, Chinese Christian Anti-narcotic Committee and Chung Hwa Anti-narcotic Society were formed one after another. Of these organizations, Chung Hwa Anti-Narcotic Society's contribution to the control efforts is especially commendable. It presented to the Geneva Opium Conference the views of the Chinese people on the suppression of the abuse of opium. It also made many useful suggestions to the Government, such as the abolition of the public sale of opium.

The importance of public opinion may well be shown by the report to the Economic and Social Council on the work of the Permanent Central Opium Board in 1955: "In all countries, whether they be producers of raw materials, manufacturers or merely consumers of narcotic drugs, effective national control is the primary prerequisite for satisfactory fulfilment of the International Conventions. But each country has its own special problems, and these can only be solved with the continuing support of public opinion, on which the success of all efforts against the various forms of drug addiction ultimately depends."

Now I want to touch upon the contents of publicity. Publicity for the control of narcotics covers a wide area, from informing the people of the danger of narcotic drugs to all other matters related to the problem of drug addiction. When well conducted, publicity can produce excellent results and will not give rise to undesirable repercussions.

After World War II, the Chinese Government launched a publicity programme against narcotics for the purpose of teaching the people the harmful effect of narcotic drugs on people's health, their demoralizing influence, the serious drain they represent on the addict's finances, their harmful effect on the armed services and administrative personnel, and so on. In a handbook outlining the publicity programme, Mr. Wang Te-pu, in his capacity as Director of the Suppression of the Abuse of Opium, stated:

"The ‘Outline of the Publicity Programme against Narcotics’ contains details about the object and content of publicity, the history of opium suppression and the successes and failures of the movement, the principle and effectiveness of the measures now in use, and the ways and means of making publicity. All those who are engaged in opium suppression work should bear all these in mind and use them to advantage. However, in order to be effective, we must pay particular attention to the substance and technique of publicity.

  1. The Object of Publicity. - In order to make the people fully understand why addiction must be abolished, we must acquaint them with the history of opium suppression - Dr. Sun Yat-sen's admonition against opium, the principal ideas of President Chiang Kai-shek's directions for carrying out opium suppression campaigns, the teachings of Lin Tse-hsu concerning the abolition of opium-smoking, the spirit of the present government's abolition policy, the actual condition of narcotics control at home and abroad, the principles of all the narcotics control laws, etc. We must make the non-addicts firmer than ever in their opposition to narcotics, and the addicts resolve to reform themselves.

  2. Publicity Technique. - Publicity technique should vary with time, place, people and conditions. Sometimes, we change from direct inculcation to indirect references; sometimes we ask rehabilitated addicts to relate their experiences. Sometimes we use concrete facts to serve the purpose of publicity; sometimeswe use illustrated materials, always keeping in view our paramount objective of making people desist from taking drugs.

  3. Publicity and Locality. - The manner of conducting a publicity campaign at the national level varies from that at the international level; so does the form of publicity in the interior provinces from that in the newly recovered territories. In enlightened areas or in ill-informed places, in opium-producing areas or in non-producing areas, all activities trying to mould public understanding should take into consideration local circumstances while observing strictly appropriate national laws and regulations and international conventions.

We are still actively carrying out this publicity programme, with some adjustments to suit the actual conditions of the present stage.


In conclusion, I wish to say that drugs not only do harm to individuals, but are a scourge to the whole human race. In an age when communications are as well developed and international relations are as close as they are today, no country can effectively control narcotics and addiction, regardless of how effective its control machinery or how excellent its laws may be, without international co-operation. That is because the effect of strict control in one country is usually lost through the laxity of one or more of its neighbours.

According to the statistics and estimates supplied to the eleventh session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, there are still several millions of opium smokers, over a million addicts to manufactured narcotic drugs and another several millions of coca-chewers and cannabis users in the world today. These alarming figures indicate that the illicit demand for narcotic drugs is still very great, and it is for all of us to redouble our efforts to wipe out addiction through international co-operation.

Now the United Nations is planning to do away with the series of drug-control conventions dealing with narcotic drugs concluded among nations in the last fifty years or so and replace them with a single, complete convention in order that "the weaknesses and complexities of the current system should be eliminated and new concepts introduced which would bring about both a strengthening and a simplification of the control system ". As was stated during the fourth session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, this will have a decisive effect on the future control of drugs in the world. Naturally, in view of the close relationship between China's own effort and the international efforts in the work of opium suppression and as enthusiastic supporters of the cause of narcotic control, the Government and the people of China are most anxious to contribute to this new system the experience they have gained.

Here are several suggestions I wish to make in connexion with the draft Single Convention:

  1. That in order to ensure that addiction is an offence against the law and to enable the public to understand its meaning, the draft convention should contain in the first chapter definitions of "drug addiction" and "addict ", as it does regarding illicit traffic.

  2. That the title of chapter X should be changed to read "Countermeasures for Addiction ", which should include two additional articles on ( a) penalties for addicts and ( b) publicity and education against addiction. (See article VII of the 1925 Geneva Agreement.)

  3. That for the sake of humanity the contracting parties should admonish and punish alien residents who are addicts just as they would their own nationals. (See article IX of the 1925 Geneva Agreement.)

  4. That if owing to special circumstances a contracting party finds itself unable to enforce the article on "penalties for addicts ", it may take a reservation for a specified period of time which should under no circumstances be unduly long. At the expiration of the period, this article should be made operative.