Chinese Police Spray-Paint Accusations on Homes Suspected of Drug Trafficking

Police patrol a village in Hotan prefecture, in China's western Xinjiang region, where surveillance affects every aspect of daily life
AFP BEN DOOLEY

Police in the Chinese town of Aojiang have been criticized for a novel anti-drug campaign in which officers spray-paint accusations on the homes of suspected traffickers. Officers literally brand suspects by using a stencil and paint to write “Drug-Dealing Family” on their homes.

“The actions have provoked disapproval, with suggestions that officials had violated the privacy of the households and went too far by trying to publicly shame citizens. Many people have said that they consider it defamation of character for the families,” the South China Morning Post reported on Friday.

The program drew national attention when Beijing Youth Daily labeled it “punishment through humiliation” and unfair to family members who are not even suspected of any crime, especially children.

Some Chinese social media users compared the program to the ugly public shaming practices of the Cultural Revolution when the accused were made to wear signs around their necks proclaiming their guilt. They also noted the practice is disturbingly similar to the way Chinese criminal gangs sometimes tag the homes of people they wish to intimidate with slogans written in red paint.

Aojiang’s drug control office initially conceded that the program was “inappropriate” and promised to remove the paint, but later other town officials said they wanted to monitor the impact of the program before deciding whether to cancel it.

According to the UK Daily Mail, a total of ten houses were branded with the “drug dealing” sign in red or black paint, often in multiple locations on the property, since the program was launched on May 8.

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