Sun, Jan 15, 2017 - Page 8 News List

Taiwan in Time: The ‘war’ on opium

Originally vowing to eradicate opium use in Taiwan, the Japanese colonial government ended up producing and selling the drug as part of its ‘gradual prohibition’ policy

By Han Cheung  /  Staff reporter

It was a lucrative venture for the government, as opium revenue accounted for as high as 46.3 percent of the colony’s total in 1898, according to statistics found in Liu’s book. As the number of legal users dropped, the government tried to export the opium and turn it into morphine. They also increased the prices yearly.

During the 1920s, Taiwan’s intellectual elite accused the government of delaying the eradication process so they could keep making money. After repeated protests, they took the issue to the League of Nations, upon which the government started implementing treatment programs and facilities for addicts.

However, the colonial government never relinquished their monopoly, only ceasing to produce the drug in 1944 when opium poppies were needed to make anesthesia during World War II. And they never stopped selling until June 1945 — just two months before surrender.

Taiwan in Time, a column about Taiwan’s history that is published every Sunday, spotlights important or interesting events around the nation that have anniversaries this week.

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