Two Montreal residents were arrested and are currently being held by Beijing authorities on charges of drug use.
The Canadians are members of the Quebec-based Cavalia, an equestrian performing arts group which had been staging shows in Beijing since April 2016. But, on the fateful evening of July 14th, police visited the hotel where the group was staying and tested team members for marijuana use.
Although it has been confirmed that two of the group’s Canadian employees were imprisoned, it is not clear how many other group members tested positive and what sort of punishment they received.
CBC reports that the Canadian consular service was contacted the day after the arrests were made, but that they were unable to assist the Quebecers until four days later. Canadian officials are doing their best to get the two performers repatriated, and hope they will be deported within the next few days. The consular workers believe it is a positive sign that the Chinese authorities have already contacted them, instructing them to purchase two plane tickets for a flight back to Canada.
Cavalia representatives have been very tentative when discussing the matter of their employees’ arrests. They have publicly admitted that they are concerned that speaking too candidly about the situation may complicate the process of getting the Canadians returned home, safe and sound. But, Eric Paquette, a spokesperson for Cavalia, also made it clear that the troupe was doing their best to be respectful of the Chinese authorities.
“It’s very important in our company policy to follow the laws of the country where we produce shows,” he said.
These Canadian performers are certainly not the first foreigners to break China’s stringent drug laws. Take this Australian teacher who faced the wrath of the Chinese authorities for growing and smoking weed in his Changshu home.
And when it comes to punishing drug use, Chinese officials aren’t very lenient. In China, particularly in the capital city of Beijing, what might elsewhere be considered a minor possession charge can lead to arrests, imprisonment, and even deportation.
The Beijinger interviewed two expats who had recently been deported on charges of drug use. The two foreigners detailed their experiences dealing with the Chinese authorities, explaining how the police invaded and searched their homes, conducted interrogations and arrested acquaintances. “Really my advice would be to walk on eggshells,” one of the deported expats warned. “Avoid trouble altogether.”
Over the past few years, it has become increasingly clear that in China no one is immune to the law, at least the drug law. A few well-known celebrities have been punished for using or possessing drugs, including Jackie Chan’s son, Jaycee, who was sentenced to six months in jail after being caught with approximately 100 grams of marijuana.
While the severity of the penalty for drug use doesn’t appear to vary greatly based on your social status, it may vary region to region with particulary harsh penalties for those caught in Beijing or the southern border provinces of Guangxi and Yunnan. Vice News reported that, in our fair city of Shanghai, while it may be expensive, it is still relatively easy to find someone selling weed.
So for any secret stoners out there: feeling anxious yet?
By Emma Abrams
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