The Tales and Realities of Drug Detainees in China


Vincent Shing Cheng

ISBN : 978-988-8455-68-3

Anthropology, Sociology, Psychology

March 2019

172 pages, 6″ x 9″, 5 b&w illus. and 1 table

  • HK$350.00

Although the official propaganda surrounding the drug detainees in China is that of helping, educating, and saving them from their drug habits and the drug dealers who lure them into drug abuse, it is clear, according to Vincent Shing Cheng, that those who have gone through the rehabilitation system lost their trust in the Communist Party’s promise of help and consider it a failure.

Based on first-hand information and established ideas in prison research, Hypocrisy gives an ethnographic account of reality and experiences of drug detainees in China and provides a glimpse into a population that is very hard to reach and study. Cheng argues that there is a discrepancy between the propaganda of ‘helping’ and ‘saving’ drug users in detention or rehabilitation centres and the reality of ‘humiliating’ them and making them prime targets of control. Such a discrepancy is possibly threatening rather than enhancing the party-state’s legitimacy. He concludes the book by demonstrating how the gulf between rhetoric and reality can illuminate many other systems, even in much less extreme societies than China.

Vincent Shing Cheng is an assistant professor of social sciences at the Open University of Hong Kong, and a fellow of the Centre for Criminology at the University of Hong Kong. He is a contributor to Crime and the Chinese Dream published by Hong Kong University Press in 2018.

‘This book is highly original, meticulously researched, and insightful. The study comes to very informative conclusions that contrast empirical data with the way drug rehabilitation is displayed in the media and government propaganda. It is a must-read for scholars in prison studies, but should also be recommended to criminologists, political scientists, and lawyers.’ —Saskia Hufnagel, Queen Mary University of London

‘The book is an excellent account of the state’s handling of drug abuse in China and convincingly argues that the institutions’ official purpose of helping the offenders is poorly served and largely hypocritical. A compelling study based on solid and in-depth empirical research.’ —James D. Seymour, Columbia University