SCMP Tuesday, June 13, 2000

Mainland drug raves draw young teens


Teenagers as young as 14 and 15 have admitted crossing the border at weekends for drugs and sex at rave parties, social workers said yesterday.

Three junior secondary school boys, aged 14 and 15, were among 18 young people interviewed by the Hong Kong Council of Social Services who had been to the mainland in the past year to take drugs.

Details of the interviews come amid growing concern about the trend in youngsters crossing the border to Shenzhen. Last year, 2,600 Ecstasy tablets were confiscated from mostly young travellers returning from Shenzhen.

Eddie Leung Yin-man, convenor of a council group on substance abuse, said: "One of them who is only 15 admits he has sex there." The teenagers interviewed all said they started using drugs in Shenzhen. They said they had increased their use of Ecstasy from half a tablet to 1.5 a night. They spent $200 to $300 each on every weekend trip for the cost of the drugs, drink and hotel room.

Ms Leung said the atmosphere, lower entertainment costs and fewer public security raids were strong attractions. "At $100 a tablet, they told us, Shenzhen's products, though not cheaper, have a heavier drug content and stronger effects."

The interviews added to evidence that an increasing number of youths are travelling to the mainland for party drugs and other recreation such as video games and massages.

Seven of the 18 interviewees were aged between 14 and 17, 11 were between 18 and 23. One was a housewife, 10 were blue-collar workers, and four were unemployed.

Twelve started using drugs in Hong Kong and turned to Shenzhen for the lower costs, easier access and the lower risk of being caught.

More than half used more than one kind of drug, mostly marijuana, the survey showed. They usually went at the weekend in a crowd of up to 70 people and spent one or two nights there. Two, who claimed to have triad links, said they brought drugs back to the SAR to sell.

"The situation is pretty serious," said Sharon Leung Shui-king, a lecturer in the division of social studies at City University and a member of the task group.

There was a fivefold increase last year in the number of people registered as users of the rave drug Ecstasy - 334 compared with just 60 in 1998, she said quoting figures from the Government's Central Registry of Drug Abuse.

The number of cases of people bringing drugs from the mainland last year increased four times to more than 180 from 47 in 1998. Ms Leung recommended the Government strengthen youth education on soft drugs, and spend more on outreach counselling services for young soft-drug users.