Yesterday I visited a group of former teenage drug smugglers and addicts on Lan Tau Island, Hong Kong.
The drug problem among Hong Kong's young has been growing at an alarming rate. Social workers and academics speak of encountering addicts as young as 9 and point out that there were 8,306 reported psychotropic drug users in Hong Kong. The most popular drug among the young is ketamine, an animal tranquilizer produced illegally on the Chinese mainland and in Hong Kong.
The Christian Zheng Sheng Association （基督教正生會有限公司） was founded to help drug addicts in 1985. The Chinese characters “Zheng Sheng” (正生) mean, “repent to live”. And independent surveys show that 90% of the teenagers who spend up to three years in the school do indeed repent and break free of their addiction. In the world of drug rehabilitation this is unheard of.
What makes this work unique however is that it is the only project for child addicts in the whole of Asia and costs half the amount of money spent on equivelent projects among adults.
Children as young as 11 who have been charged with possession, smuggling or use of drugs are sent to the school by Hong Kong Social Services or assigned by the Juvenile Court. Zheng Sheng also take children from other Asian countries as far away as Thailand and Indonesia. Christian Zheng Sheng College bases its drug rehabilitation therapy on creating a climate of mutual respect and self-reliance. No pharmaceutical products are used in the treatment.
There are presently 115 pupils cared for by 35 full time staff who share the same facilities as the children just like an extended family. The facilities are very basic because most of the investment is made in the future of the teenagers who learn to excel in sports, technical skills and further education. Most have little problem finding jobs when they graduate.
In this short video one of the pupils shares her story.