Women beat the scourge of drugs

Updated: Jul 7, 2022 China Daily Print
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Members of the women's drug control and order maintenance team in Kanan village in Dehong Dai and Jingpo autonomous prefecture, Yunnan province, go on patrol. ZHANG XINYI/FOR CHINA DAILY

A settlement at the heart of China's narcotics war has won the battle. Ye Zizhen reports with Li Yingqing in Kunming.

It was a difficult decision for Pai Nanxiang to send her two sons to a rehab center decades ago, but she has never regretted it because they have overcome their drug addictions and now live happy lives.

Pai, a farmer in Kanan village in Dehong Dai and Jingpo autonomous prefecture, Yunnan province, was the first leader of the local women's drug control and order maintenance team, a voluntary organization founded in 2002.

As a border village, the locals have easy access to illicit drugs that are trafficked through the area.

"Back in the 1990s, drugs-especially heroin-were widespread in the village. Many of the users were men, leaving women and children at home with little income," the 61-year-old recalled. She added that back then, 22 local men were addicts, accounting for one-third of the main labor force in the small village.

Pai's husband died at an early age, and the family suffered greatly when her two sons became addicted to drugs.

A police officer from the Jiele border station near Kanan visits villagers. YAN LIANG/FOR CHINA DAILY

Widespread plight

Their plight was not rare in the village, though. "Our family had a business raising pigs and was well-off in the village. However, after my brother became addicted to drugs, he used up all the family's savings," said Zhao Laiyou, a 45-year-old farmer from Kanan.

During a casual chat in the farmland, Pai, Zhao and other local women complained about the harsh situations they faced and how drugs ruined their families and lives. To help close relatives overcome addiction and protect their families, the women decided to form a team to fight the scourge.

"I joined the team because illicit drugs do humans no good. I hope they will disappear from our village," Zhao said.

At first, the team only had a few members, but the number later rose to 16. All the women were devoted to making the village a clean and beautiful community.

To strive for a drug-free village, the women patrol the area with local police day and night to detect and report suspicious people, and they try to cut off the sources of the drugs.

They have also teamed up with the police to raise awareness of illicit substances.

"We work in the farmland in the morning, and in the evening we visit the families of drug users and try to talk them out of their habit," said Pai Liying, the current team leader, who is Pai Nanxiang's younger sister.

Meanwhile, the team also provides the police with information about people who are using drugs.

When drug users were sent to rehab centers and there was no one to do the farmwork, the team members helped each other with their tasks and took care of family members who had been left behind.

"My sister was threatened by addicts, who said it was none of her business, but the team has stuck to its goal to this day," Pai Liying said.

Turning point

By 2006, there were no new cases of drug use in the village. Because of their efforts and dedication, Pai Nanxiang and her teammates were honored as national rule-of-law figures that year.

Walking around Kanan, which is home to members of the Jingpo ethnic group, two- and three-story villas can be seen on both sides of the paved road, and mango trees flourish in front of almost every house. Motorbikes are the main form of transportation, while better-off families have cars.

"It is a beautiful village now, but back then, the houses were poorly built and thefts happened quite often," Yang Guo, an officer at the nearby Jiele border station, said.

"I have been working here in Kanan village for over a decade. In addition to border patrols, our duties include prevention of drug use, educating local people about drugs and monitoring those who have recovered to prevent relapse," the 43-year-old said.

People now can resist illicit drugs voluntarily after 40 years of anti-drug education.

"Some of the villagers have started their own businesses, and some have found jobs in other cities. Life is becoming much better now," Yang said.

Provincial progress

Kanan is a symbol of Yunnan's achievements in combating the drug trade. As a major front in the nation's battle against such crime, the province has made great progress in the fight against illicit drugs over the past four decades, local officials told a recent news briefing.

Hu Shuiwang, an official with the Yunnan Narcotics Control Commission, said that since 1982, more than 450 metric tons of drugs have been seized and about 510,000 people have been detained on charges related to drug crimes. By May, the number of existing drug users in the province had fallen to 127,300 from 160,000 in 2016, while new cases are declining year-on-year, he added.

Now, Zhao Laiyou's brother has joined her in the family's pig business, and they have already sold 20 pigs for 40,000 yuan ($5,972) this year.

Pai Nanxiang's younger son has joined a civilian border patrol team to help protect his hometown.

Meanwhile, in addition to developing Kanan's traditional pig farming industry, the locals are developing countryside tourism with Jingpo ethnic features to encourage more people to visit the village.

Shi Wenzhi contributed to this story.

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