SCMP Tuesday, June 13, 2000


Cross-border trafficking

Social workers were initially puzzled to notice a decline in activity in the seedy places where drug trading takes place in the SAR. They soon discovered why.

Addicts and social users were crossing to Shenzhen, where designer drugs are easier to get, a little cheaper and a lot stronger. In addition, the cross-border travellers believe drug busts are rarer and those who get caught can pay their way out of trouble. According to drug workers, the idea that mainland officials can be bribed to look the other way is largely a myth. For the rest of the story, the facts speak for themselves.

Figures from the Narcotics Division show a drop of more than seven per cent in the number of registered drug abusers last year. However, social workers insist drug use is still rising. Users no longer need to skulk in dark alleys where dealing goes on and where police keep a look-out for traffickers. They buy it openly in discos and karaoke bars in Shenzhen.

Whatever the reason, it is difficult to find any cases of Hong Kong citizens arrested across the border for drug-taking offences. On this side, the numbers caught by Customs officers carrying drugs on the return journey quadrupled last year to 184. Affluent teenagers - some as young as 14 - make the journey up to three times a week.

The working party set up to target the problem believes education is the answer. But the quickest results would come if the Shenzhen authorities started cracking down on offending places. The venues are well known and attended by hundreds of teenagers. A couple of police raids should be enough to drive most clients away, at least in the short term. Then it might be possible to convince young ones that Ecstasy is a dangerous substance, responsible for numerous deaths.

Young people having fun are rarely receptive to warnings. They will take more notice of tougher drug laws and stronger enforcement in both Hong Kong and Shenzhen.