2013-07-02      Reason for June 26 Anti-Drug Day date


Last week this column mentioned that June 26 is the United Nations International Day against Drug Abuse. The day has been observed each year since 1988 and was chosen by the UN General Assembly because of something very special that happened many years ago in China.

In 1839 on June 26, 500 workers finished a 23 day job of destroying a huge quantity of opium, mixing the opium with lime and salt and throwing it into the sea in the town of Humen (虎門鎮),  not far from Hong Kong, trying to combat the terrible evil of opium forced on China by Britain.  The workers were following the instructions of a famous scholar-official Lin Zexu.

But Lin's efforts were unsuccessful and two Opium Wars were forced on China. The story of opium in China is a disgrace for Britain, and a constant issue of resentment for China. By 1900, ninety million Chinese were addicted to the drug, and it took fifty years of repressive police measures and rehabilitation to correct the problem. Several million Chinese died from using opium, and many millions of others had their health destroyed by the drug.

Because of his firm stance, Lin Zexu has been considered as a role model for moral governance, someone who stood up for the good of his people in the face of great injustice. Wikipedia's article on Lin is well worth reading. It shows how he is well remembered in China and many other parts of the world.