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 In the Far East, the sale and consumption of opium has been big business for more than a century.

Opium revenues have not only contributed to the support of Oriental governments but have been

complacently received by the British and French authorities



Opium in the Far East


The poppy is  a magnificent red flower. From the seed head, after an incision is made exudes a thick white juice abounding in opium. No one can say definitely just where and when this opium juice was first diverted from medicinal use and employed as a narcotic. Probably it was in the Mohammedan Orient where it is still used extravagantly. However, it is known that at the beginning of the eighteenth century Chinese traders introduced it into Formosa, and from there to the opposite coasts of China. Today, the periphery of its use includes all the Far East, touches Australia in the South, Manchukuo in the North and spans the Pacific Ocean to the coast of America.

The use of opium is a passion, a passion glibly justified by those who, finding their immediate environment insuperable, seek escape into the world of unreality created by the opiate. And it is, in fact, an enchanting world tot he smoker of opium, a world devoid of bodily pain and emotional attrition. Still, the price of purchase for this dream world is far too high for the ordinary being. It is a price weighed in human degradation and measured in human misery. It is the price of vice.

In China alone, 40 million people are enthralled by the pleasures of opium, while many millions more contract the habit yearly in India, Malacca, and Siam. Nor has opium poisoned merely the yellow races. for among the Caucasians in Europe, and particularly in America, the drug is taken in greater quantities than is generally known. Concerning the domestic traffic, the Treasury Department recently reported that it "continued to be a problem of major magnitude." Arrests during 1937 for violations of the drug laws alone approached 3,500.

In the Far East, the sale and consumption of opium has been big business for more than a century. Opium revenues have not only contributed to the support of Oriental governments but have been complacently received by the British and French authorities in the Far East.

With characteristic realism the Japanese military staffs have found opium an unspectacular though highly effective weapon for subduing the populations of the confiscated Chinese provinces. And it is this deliberate drugging of China's hard working millions by the Japanese that, as yet, has not received its deserved publicity. In Manchukuo, Jehol, Darien, Tientsin, and Shanghai, the Japanese are now manufacturing and lavishly dispensing hundreds of tons of the habit forming drug.

It is considered a military and economic tactic, as much a part of the Japanese strategy in the subjugation of China as was the deliberate bombardment of Shanghai. It is their purpose to poison and corrupt the Chinese farmers, the workmen, the students, so that in the future they will be unable to resist the invader either morally or physically.

"Wherever Japan goes, drug manufacture and traffic follow," says Stuart J. Fuller, United States representative to the League of Nations. According to his official reports the Japanese have legalized the narcotic trade in China while, at the same time, sternly forbidding the use of opiates to all Japanese subjects.

In the face of these facts the Chinese authorities have attempted to restrict the opium trade by drastically punishing violators of the anti-drug laws. They not only registered and scientifically treated two million addicts, but executed nearly a thousand law violators last year. But the futility of such enforcement in the face of Japanese propagation of the traffic is obvious. The firing squad is a useless cure because the subtle seductions of an official drug-peddler can create more addicts in one year than the Chinese can kill off in ten. Still the Chinese continue to make an intelligent effort to register, cure, and rehabilitate as many addicts as their limited financial resources will permit.

 It is their hope that such a policy of good faith will result in the cooperation of foreign governments heretofore above and beyond the Chinese law. For such purposes they have appealed to the League of Nations.

As a result of specific charges made at Geneva that their oriental Colonial establishments have been partially supported by revenues from the official sale of opium to Chinese residents, the British authorities are becoming increasingly restive. Colonial administrators meeting in Bangkok, Siam decided gradually to reduce the drug traffic. Both the Straits settlement and federated Malay States have set up a reserve fund to take the place of opium reserves, which in the case of Malaya amounted to $45,000,000. however, the Hong Kong authorities failed to participate in this agreement. To them the loss of opium revenues constitutes a serious financial problem, especially serious at the present time when huge sums are being spent for the island's defenses.

Instead, the Hong Kong government has advertised warnings against heroin (a derivative of opium) in all the local papers. the official advertising copy warns against the mistake belief that heroin will cure venereal disease and reduce the pain of syphilis.

Unfortunately, the use of drugs falls into a category of vice similar to that of prostitution, that age-old malady of the race which there is no antidote, despite the economic theories of the Marxists, and the puritanism of Christians. The dope traffic once enfranchised and legally restrained is incompatible with morality.

While to disenfranchise and to suppress the traffic is merely to drive it underground where its revenues will subsidize the criminal elements of society. perhaps, however, there is more than one alternative.

For many people believe that with the education of the masses, and the end of poverty will come a diminution in all forms of vice, including the pleasures and the miseries of opium.

Source: Current History, March 1938

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