Typhoon in a Teacup

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Hong Kong has made the startling discovery that some of its young people are taking drugs instead of being the well-behaved ping-pong playing, academic over-achievers that they are supposed to be. Each day, it seems, the papers gloat over some new tale of teens and chemical depravity. Oddly, much of it occurs in the last place you would want to be while monging: school itself. We read of the private school boy caught in a corridor with three E’s in his pocket; or of girls poleaxed by lunchtime lines of ketamine; or the youngsters wheeled out of classrooms, supine, after being found face down in their textbooks. Oh, the wickedness of it all.

Personally, the thought of being “on one” during a lecture on photosynthesis, linear equations or Tang Dynasty poetry makes me wince. But never mind.  The government’s endearingly inept response is to institute a program of voluntary drug testing in schools. Young pillheads will be asked to provide urine samples and if they refuse—well, nothing will happen. It appears that by law, under-18s are not deemed to have the necessary faculties to consent to such tests (even if the crafty scamps have the wits to score drugs amid the bleak concourses of suburban housing estates, under the noses of police and parents, at any time of day or night). Neither educators nor family members can compel them.

Despite this gross impediment to its overall effectiveness, the plan has provoked plenty of opposition. The silent majority sees it for the piece of tokenism that it is because, let’s face it, the generally sober, orderly and decent people of Hong Kong really aren’t living in a drug hell, whatever the gutter press may tell you. But social activists and panicky foreigners are in revolt, imagining voluntary drug testing to be the harbinger of some terrible Orwellian future of curtailed liberties and government snooping. Today, it’s a student agreeing to provide a urine sample, the argument goes. Tomorrow, it’ll be dawn raids on the homes of poets and professors.

Lol. And let us note that the colonial government was far more draconian. I remember drug enforcement as a secondary school student in Kowloon, where, believe me, there were no social workers politely coughing and asking for your signature on a consent form. Staff would raid student lockers and take them apart with grim sureness, even the packed lunches, which would be left in a soggy, inedible heap of squashed bread, cling wrap and sandwich filling. I once saw a teacher hold a lettuce leaf up to the light, just in case in proved to be anything smokable. If a fanatic like that really wanted your urine in a jar, he’d have beaten it out of you.