Therapeutic Governance in Hong Kong’s Anti-narcotics War, 1959–1980s

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This article examines the medical front of the anti-narcotics war in post-war Hong Kong. Situating Hong Kong in the American global drug war, this article traces colonial Hong Kong’s development of addiction treatment and cooperation with American medical experts in conducting a controversial experiment, methadone maintenance. It argues that the colonial government constructed a new form of therapeutic governance to medicalize social issues as behavioural problems. Through large-scale rehabilitation and methadone maintenance, the colonial government claimed to transform addicts in the island colony into useful subjects and justified its radical intervention into social life. To American experts, Hong Kong was an ideal laboratory to examine the controversial treatment. Hong Kong’s methadone experiment became an international success and a model reimported into the United States in the 1980s. A medical history of the anti-narcotics war not only offers a new way to reassess the social reform in the 1970s but also helps us understand the contemporary hard-line approach against drugs in Hong Kong and post-colonial Asia.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)44
Number of pages67
JournalChina Information
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2024

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