China Focus: With stable jobs, former addicts cleared of drugs, poverty

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KUNMING, June 25 (Xinhua) -- In a security door workshop, Pan Hua (pseudonym) and his co-workers are busy inspecting the quality of products, which would be sold across the country.

"It feels so good to have myself busy," said Pan, 33, who earns nearly 4,000 yuan (566 U.S. dollars) per month.

Pan, from Zhenxiong County in southwest China's Yunnan Province, used to be addicted to drugs and spent all his family savings. In 2016, the family of six, including four children, was registered as an impoverished household.

He took job training organized by the government and found employment at the security door plant in the city of Jinhua in east China's Zhejiang Province this year. His first wife, who left him when he was in rehab, is now with him in Jinhua.

Friday marks the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking.

As part of national efforts to eradicate absolute poverty by 2020, the Yunnan provincial government has combined the work of drug control and poverty alleviation, organizing training for those out of rehab and helping them get employed and shake off poverty.

Yunnan is a major front in China's battle against drug abuse as it borders the Golden Triangle known for rampant drug production and trafficking. Figures show some 31,900 people involved in drugs were poor in the province in 2018.

Lured by his friends, Pan started taking heroin at the age of 15 in a rented house while working in a southern city.

"I was frightened to hear a police siren. Relatives and friends were all reluctant to see me," he recalls.

He married twice, but both wives divorced him, leaving four children at home under his mother's care.

When he was put into a drug rehabilitation center for the third time, cadres working for poverty alleviation regularly visited his family. Partly funded by the government, the family had a new house built, with his mother enjoying a minimum living allowance.

"Their care for my family became a strong inspiration prompting me to repent over my former life and make a new start," he says.

In rehab, Pan applied for some skills training, such as making earphones, clothes hangers and electronics.

"By working, I gradually forget about drugs," he says.

Yang Hongbin, an official with the provincial narcotics control office, said more than 90 percent of drug addicts in the rural areas are young and middle-aged males. Each drug user spends at least 36,000 yuan a year, which equals the annual income of an ordinary local family of four.

Diseases caused by, and relapse into, drug use made them harder to shake off poverty and more prone to slipping back into poverty, says Yang.

Chen Xin, a narcotics control officer with the provincial department of justice, says for those too ill to work, the government will grant 300 yuan per person every month to meet the basic living expense. Those who would like to find a job or start a business will be helped. The government will train them with skills like gardening and motorcycle repair, and also recommend them for jobs.

After quitting drugs, Zheng Zhi (pseudonym), from Longling County of Yunnan, became a target of poverty alleviation. Encouraged and helped by the local government, Zheng started rearing pigs three years ago.

By selling over 60 pigs, he and his wife made a net annual income of over 150,000 yuan in 2019. "In the beginning, I felt so desperate on returning home from rehab. Now with a stable income, I feel very much at ease," he says, adding he plans to expand his pig farm this year.

Statistics show the Chinese government has initiated precise poverty alleviation for 231,000 impoverished people involved in drugs across the country. By March, some 84 percent of them had been lifted out of poverty.

Li Yirong, an official with the provincial narcotics control office, said narcotics control and poverty alleviation are two common problems faced by the world, and that China's practice may prove helpful to other countries.

"Although the number of impoverished people involved in drugs is relatively small, it is significant to lift them out of poverty," Li says. Enditem

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