Hong Kong is not a major transshipment point for illicit drugs destined for the international market, however can be seen as a transit point as some drugs flow through because it is a major shipping hub. Hong Kong is not a major transshipment point for drugs because of its efficient law enforcement efforts, the availability of alternate routes, and the development of port facilities elsewhere in southern China. Some traffickers continue to operate out of Hong Kong to arrange shipments from nearby drug-producing countries via Hong Kong and other international markets, including to the United States. The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) actively combats drug trafficking and abuse through legislation and law enforcement, preventive education and publicity, treatment and rehabilitation, as well as research and external cooperation. The 1988 UN Drug Convention, to which the People's Republic of China (PRC) is a party, also applies to Hong Kong.
II. Status of Country
Hong Kong's position as a key port city in close proximity to the Golden Triangle and mainland China historically made it a natural transit/transshipment point for drugs moving from Southeast Asia to the international market, including to the United States. In recent years, Hong Kong's role as a transshipment point has diminished due to law enforcement efforts and the availability of alternate routes in southern China and a diminished demand for Southeast Asian heroin in North America. Despite the diminished role, some drugs continue to transit Hong Kong to the United States and the international market. Some drug-traffickers continue to use Hong Kong as their financial base of operations, including investors involved in international drug trafficking activity who reside in Hong Kong. Drug trafficking groups operating in Hong Kong are primarily transnational in nature.
Hong Kong law enforcement officials maintain very cooperative liaison relationships with their U.S. counterparts in the fight against drugs. According to HKSAR authorities, drugs seized in Hong Kong are smuggled mostly for local consumption and to a lesser extent for further distribution in the international market, including the United States. Hong Kong continued to experience an overall decrease in drug abuse in 2006. The 56th edition of the Hong Kong Central Registry of Drug Abuse for 2006, with a comparison of the first halves of 2006 and 2007, reported that the total number of reported drug abusers in recent years continued to decline from 18,513 persons in 2001 to 13,204 in 2006.
Though heroin is traditionally the most commonly abused drug in Hong Kong, the number of heroin abusers has been declining for years. In 2006, there were 8,101 (or 61.7 percent of drug abusers) reported heroin users. There was a general rising trend in the abuse of psychotropic substances as a whole between 1997 and 2006. The number of psychotropic substance abusers reached a record high of 7,368 in 2006. Among psychotropic substances, the more commonly abused types include Ketamine (23.2 percent of drug abusers), triazolam/midazolam/zopiclone (16.9 percent), MDMA/Ecstasy (11.6 percent), cannabis (7.4 percent), crystal methamphetamine (6.5 percent), and cough medicine (5.7 percent). The comparison of the first half of 2006 to that of 2007 showed a decrease in heroin abusers from 5,211 to 4,788, but an increase in psychotropic drug abusers from 4,054 to 4,410 with Ketamine being abused by almost half (approximately 2,150) of the abusers.
In 2006, the Hong Kong Government gave a high priority to tackling psychotropic substance abuse. The Hong Kong Government has identified the continuing prevalence of psychotropic substance abuse and the growing trend of young people experimenting with drugs as their major area of concern in the battle against drug abuse and trafficking.
III. Country Actions Against Drugs in 2007
Policy Initiatives. Although there were no major policy changes in 2006 and 2007, the Hong Kong Government continued to work with existing counternarcotics policies and strategies in drug prevention efforts. Minor policy changes included the replacement of the Action Committee Against Narcotics on Research by the Research Advisory Group (RAG). Apart from monitoring research, the RAG provides advice on interpreting drug abuse statistical trends and drawing together the latest research findings from both local and overseas narcotics-related studies.
Law Enforcement Efforts: Hong Kong's law enforcement agencies, including the Hong Kong Police and Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department (HKCED), place high priority on meeting the objectives of the 1988 UN Drug Convention. Their counternarcotics efforts focus on the suppression of drug trafficking and the control of precursor chemicals. The Hong Kong Police have adopted a three-level approach to combat narcotics distribution: at the headquarters level, the focus is on high-level traffickers and international trafficking; the regional police force focuses on trafficking across police district boundaries; and the district level police force has responsibility for eradicating street-level distribution. In 2007, the Hong Kong Police continued id checks on entertainment premises in order to deter young people from visiting venues where drugs are more easily available.
The HKCED's Chemical Control Group, in cooperation with the U.S. DEA office in Hong Kong, closely monitors the usage of precursor chemicals and tracks the export of suspicious precursor chemical shipments to worldwide destinations with significant results impacting on several regions including the United States. Due to an effective chemical tracking program, in March 2007, a significant chemical trafficker was identified as suspected of involvement in diverting large quantities of precursor chemicals to illicit uses through use of his licit pharmaceutical business. This individual had amassed over US$207 million dollars in cash which was seized. A related investigation by the HKCED and U.S. DEA identified bank accounts in Hong Kong totaling over US$ 10.1 million dollars being maintained by this same individual.
Corruption. The HKSAR government strongly opposes illicit production or distribution of narcotic or psychotropic drugs or other controlled substances, and the laundering of proceeds from illegal drug transactions. No senior government official is alleged to have participated in such activities. Hong Kong has a comprehensive anticorruption ordinance that is effectively enforced by the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAO), which reports directly to the Chief Executive. In addition, the UN Convention Against Corruption, which the PRC ratified on January 13, 2006, is applicable to Hong Kong.
Agreements and Treaties/International Cooperation. Upon resuming the exercise of sovereignty over Hong Kong, China advised the UN Secretary General that the 1961 Single Convention and the 1972 protocol, the Convention on Psychotropic Substances, and the 1988 UN Drug Convention apply to Hong Kong. Also, the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and the UN Convention against Corruption apply to Hong Kong. Hong Kong has "mutual legal assistance in criminal matters agreements" with the United States and many other countries. Hong Kong signed surrender of fugitive offenders' agreements with Finland, Germany and Korea in 2006 and with Ireland in 2007 to bring the total number of countries with which Hong Kong has such agreements or treaties to 17, including the U.S. Hong Kong has also signed transfer of sentenced persons' agreements with eight countries, including the U.S. In 2007 Hong Kong signed a mutual legal assistance agreement with Finland.
Hong Kong law enforcement agencies enjoy a close and cooperative working relationship with their mainland counterparts and counterparts in many countries. Hong Kong law enforcement agents cooperated with Japan to seize HK$18 million (apx. US$23 million) in drug proceeds and charge one person with money laundering. A joint investigation with New Zealand authorities resulted in two arrests for money laundering and HK$10.3 million (apx. US$13 million) seized.
Last year Hong Kong's Joint Financial Intelligence Unit (JFIU) entered into Memoranda of Understanding in respect to intelligence sharing with the financial intelligence units of Australia, Korea, Japan, Singapore and Canada. In the ten years since Hong Kong returned to Chinese control, liaison information sharing and data-networking functions between Hong Kong and Chinese authorities, such as customs information, have been formalized and have successfully increased the levels of inter-system cooperation and efficiency. Training has also become an important element of cooperation between U.S. and Hong Kong law enforcement counterparts. In September 2007, the U.S. DEA and Hong Kong Customs Drug Investigation Bureau (CDIB) hosted a joint training workshop, which focused on enhancing the investigative and tactical capabilities of investigators in drug interdiction operations. The training workshop stressed the continued open exchange of information and increased international cooperation between the two participating agencies.
Hong Kong participates in Project Prism and Operation Cohesion, both managed by the International Narcotics Control Board, to control the illegal diversion of chemical precursors. Hong Kong also participates in joint tracking programs, which allow Hong Kong Customs and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency to target the movement of precursor chemical shipments exported from, transshipped or transiting via Hong Kong to high-risk countries. In addition to the monitoring of controlled chemical precursors, Hong Kong monitors the movement of ephedra, a raw material for the manufacture of ephedrine. The 1988 UN Drug Convention, 1961 UN Single Convention as amended by the 1972 Protocol, and the 1971 UN Convention Against Psychotropic Substances are applicable to Hong Kong.
Cultivation and Production. Although Hong Kong police detected and destroyed several minor drug production and cultivation enterprises in 2006, including four small-scale crack cocaine production labs and three cannabis cultivation sites, Hong Kong is generally not considered a significant producer of illicit drugs.
Drug Flow/Transit. Some drugs continue to flow through Hong Kong for the overseas market, to destinations including Australia, China, Japan, Taiwan, Europe, and the United States. In July 2007, based on an aggressive container profiling program, the HKCED seized 160 kilograms of cocaine which was concealed within containerized cargo believed to be destined for European markets. The container was transiting through Hong Kong in order to disguise its origin. Traffickers use land routes through mainland China to smuggle heroin into Hong Kong. In 2007, Hong Kong Customs authorities arrested 14 Thai nationals at Hong Kong International Airport attempting to smuggle heroin into Mainland China.
The heavy volume of vehicle and passenger traffic at the land boundary between PRC and Hong Kong continues to pose difficulties in the fight against the trafficking of drugs into and out of Hong Kong. In an effort to curb Hong Kong's role as a transit/transshipment point for illicit drugs, the HKSAR maintains a database of information on all cargo, cross-border vehicles, and shipping. The air cargo clearance system, the land border system and the customs control system are all capable of quickly processing information on all import and export cargoes, cross-border vehicles and vessels. The local Chinese population dominates the Hong Kong drug trade. Contrary to common belief, there is not a significant and direct connection between Hong Kong narcotics activity and Hong Kong triads at the wholesale and manufacturing level. Therefore, drug investigations are not focused on known triad societies, but rather on the particular trafficking syndicates or individuals involved. Trafficking destined for mainland China by Southeast Asians continues to be prominent.
Domestic Programs. The Hong Kong Government uses a five-pronged approach to confront domestic drug problems, including legislation and law enforcement; preventive education and publicity; treatment and rehabilitation; research; and external cooperation. In 2006, the Hong Kong Government's preventative education policy efforts continued to focus on youth and parents. The Hong Kong Government has provided a comprehensive drug prevention program throughout Hong Kong's education system.
In 2006, the Hong Kong Police Narcotics Division stepped up publicity efforts to teach Hong Kong adolescents about the detrimental effects of commonly abused drugs like Ketamine by using announcements in the public interest through TV and radio broadcasts. The Hong Kong Government's Narcotics Bureau partners with youth organizations and groups such as Junior Police Call, the Hong Kong Red Cross, and the Scout Association of Hong Kong to promote an anti-counternarcotics message to youths. The Hong Kong Government also implemented a public awareness campaign to educate the public about the harmful effects of Ketamine and Ecstasy, the two most commonly abused drugs among youth. A HKG-sponsored Hip Hop Dance and Music Competition encourages youth to participate in healthy activities and reinforces a healthy drug-free lifestyle. The Hong Kong Government also launched a new drug education kit to disseminate countemarcotics messages in schools and publicizes the consequences of cross-boundary drug abuse.
In June 2004, the Hong Kong Government formally opened the Drug Information Centre (DIC), funded by the Hong Kong Jockey Club. The DIC is the first exhibition center in Hong Kong dedicated to countemarcotics education. Since the DIC's opening, it has received more than 100,000 visitors for various drug-prevention education activities. The Government also continued to commission nongovernmental organizations to assist in educating primary and secondary school children by sponsoring counternarcotics education programs in local schools and conducting countemarcotics seminars with parents, teachers, social workers and persons from various uniform groups. For the 12 month period ending in August 2007, 163,000 school-age children participated in drug education programs provided by the government.
The Hong Kong Government also continued to implement a comprehensive drug treatment and rehabilitation program in 2007. The fourth Three-year Plan on Drug Treatment and Rehabilitation Services was released in March 2006. The plan sets out the overall direction for enhancing Hong Kong's treatment and rehabilitation services and increases focus on early intervention efforts and focus programs that reach out to substance abusers. The Department of Health and the Social Welfare Department continued to operate seven residential drug treatment centers and five counseling centers for psychotropic substance abusers and the Department of Health continued its operation of a methadone treatment program. The Correctional Services Department continued to provide compulsory treatment for convicted persons with drug abuse problems. The Hong Kong Government will launch a pilot cooperation scheme in early 2008 to refer abusers to designated medical practitioners who will provide comprehensive health check-ups and motivational interviews, to alert abusers of any signs of health deterioration as a result of drug use, and to heighten abusers awareness of early treatment options.
IV. U.S. Policy Initiatives and Programs
Bilateral Cooperation. The U.S. Government and the HKSAR continue to promote sharing of proceeds from joint countemarcotics investigations. In May 2003, Hong Kong began participating in the U.S. Container Security Initiative (CSI), which U.S. law enforcement believes will increase the potential for identifying shipments of narcotics, even though its focus is on terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. Hong Kong is also an active participant in the International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA) in Bangkok, Thailand. From 2003 to October 2005, Hong Kong Customs, Hong Kong Department of Health and the U.S. DEA launched a joint operation to monitor the movement of precursor chemicals that are used in the production of methamphetamine and other drugs from Hong Kong to high-risk countries. The operation effectively decreased the frequency of these shipments and, through the high level of information exchange and timely international tracking, indicated strong cooperation between Hong Kong Government officials and their U.S. counterparts.
To further strengthen international cooperation against trafficking of precursors used in the production of amphetamine and other amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS) drugs, Hong Kong secured an agreement with the U.S., Mexico and Panama to impose stringent controls on such shipments. Since the agreement's implementation in April 2005, no shipment of such products to Mexico or any other high-risk countries has been detected. Another cooperative chemical initiative was implemented in February 2006. This new program allows the U.S. DEA and Hong Kong Government to monitor and track other precursor chemical shipments sourced from countries or territories in Asia, which transit through Hong Kong, and are destined to high-risk countries.
The Road Ahead. The Hong Kong Government has proven to be a valuable partner in the fight against drug trafficking and abuse. Hong Kong law enforcement agencies, among the most effective in the region, continue to cooperate closely with U.S. counterparts. The U.S. Government will continue to encourage Hong Kong to maintain its active role in counternarcotics efforts.
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|Title Annotation:||Southeast Asia|
|Publication:||International Narcotics Control Strategy Report|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2008|