Jaycee Chan, the son of Jackie Chan, apologizes at a February press conference in Beijing after serving six months in jail on marijuana charges
Three students from one of Beijing’s major international schools have been detained by police in an ongoing drug investigation over the past week, beijingkids has learned. In total eight students from the school were questioned, and five released.
According to an official school announcement sent to school parents Monday, four students, three seniors and one junior, were detained late Friday night at a private residence for alleged involvement with marijuana.
One teenager from the Friday night raid has been released while the remaining three are still in police custody.
Sources connected to the school who spoke on condition of anonymity say plainclothes policemen visited the school on Tuesday and four additional students were questioned offsite, allegedly in connection with the same offense. All four of the students have since been released and are back at school.
The nationalities of the students were not given, but the school admits only foreign passport holders. At least one of the students questioned is an American, sources told beijingkids.
There is no indication of what alerted the police to the teenagers’ activities, but one source claims that a dealer who was selling marijuana to the students tipped police off, while another cited drug references made on the students’ public social media accounts.
While recreational marijuana use is generally tolerated in places like the United States – where some states have even legalized personal use of it – the same is not true of China, which has very strict laws against most drugs.
China is currently in the middle of a crackdown on drug abuse, and the campaign has shown that even the elite are not immune to prosecution. Jackie Chan’s son Jaycee was just released this spring having served a six-month jail term not for drug use but for allowing others to use marijuana in his Beijing apartment.
Foreign high school students in Beijing international schools often have little exposure to local laws. Frequently residing in gated compounds near their schools, many teens go about their lives in an “expat bubble” and with a false sense of security that local rules do not apply to them.
They may assume that police here follow the same conventions of their home country, which is not necessarily the case.
Some may imagine that as foreigners, the worst that can happen to them is expulsion from China, but that is also not the case: plenty of foreigners involved in drug offenses have been convicted of drug offenses in in China, and they are typically only deported after serving their sentence here.
One former Beijing international school student found this out the hard way last year, when an altercation outside a nightclub resulted in him spending a month in jail and over a year in bureaucratic limbo, unable to depart China while his case was under review.
Penalties for drug use in China are generally split into two categories of severity.
The use of illegal drugs and holding small amounts of drugs are handled by the Public Security Bureau. Offenders are subject to 10-15 days detention and fines of up to RMB 2,000.
Suspects for more serious violations – such as providing a venue for drug use, holding large amounts of highly addictive drugs, and smuggling or distributing drugs – are handled according to China’s Criminal Law.
Providing a venue for any sort of drug use is punishable of up to three years in jail, though recent celebrity cases have shown that most convicted of this crime, such as Chan, have been let out after 6 months on good behavior.
Holding large amount of highly addictive drugs can result in three to seven years imprisonment, and even more under special circumstances. Smuggling, transporting, or manufacturing drugs is considered a major crime, with penalties ranging from 15 years imprisonment to the death sentence.
The school in question has taken several steps in the wake of the incident. They have reiterated their policy against drug use to all members of the community as well as offering support and counseling for the affected students and their families.
They also had a representative from the Public Security Bureau visit the students to make sure they are aware of the seriousness with which drug use is treated in China.
The school also recommended the following common-sense advice for parents, which serves as a reminder to all foreigners in Beijing as well:
- Talk frequently with your children about where they are and what they are doing when out with friends
- Discuss with them the dangers of drugs and alcohol, the seriousness of illegal activities, and the possible consequences
- Encourage them to report any inappropriate activity
We’ll reiterate our stance on drugs here: Don’t do them, and make no assumptions as to the applicability of local laws to you. If you are living (or even visiting) here, make it your business to know and abide by the local laws.
Also, it would be wise to not assume that your home or school can shield you from repercussions of illegal activities, and that your online activity cannot be monitored, even while using a VPN.
Photo: courtesy of Global Times, CFP