Cablegate: Hong Kong 2009-2010 International Narcotics Control

DE RUEHHK #2025/01 3070908
R 030908Z NOV 09




E.O. 12958: N/A

1. Summary: The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) is
not a major transshipment point for illicit drugs destined for the
international market. Some narcotics shipments do transit Hong
Kong's high volume port, but its efficient law enforcement efforts,
the availability of alternate routes, and the development of port
facilities elsewhere in southern China prevent the HKSAR from
becoming a major transshipment point. Some traffickers continue to
operate out of Hong Kong, arranging shipments from nearby
drug-producing countries via Hong Kong to other international
markets, including to the United States. The HKSAR Government
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.

2. Status: 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 drug transshipment
point has diminished due to law enforcement efforts and the
availability of alternate routes in southern China. Despite this
diminished role, some drugs continue to transit Hong Kong to other
international markets. 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.
Statistics released by the Hong Kong Central Registry of Drug Abuse
(HKCRDA) for 2008 indicate the number of reported drug abusers
declined from 14,115 in 2005 to 13,252 in 2006. In 2007 this figure
increased slightly to 13,591, whereas 2008 saw a marked increase to
14,175. Newly-reported drug users age 30 and under account for the
largest increases since 2007.

Though heroin was once the most commonly abused drug in Hong Kong,
the number of heroin abusers continued its steady decline in 2008
with 7,243 heroin abusers reported, compared to the 7,419 reported
in 2007. For the second year in a row, HKCRDA also reported a
larger number of psychotropic substance abusers than heroin abusers.
In 2008, 8,306 psychotropic abusers were reported, an increase from
the 7,908 psychotropic abusers reported in 2007. Ketamine is the
most commonly abused psychotropic substance with over 5,000 abusers,
approximately 1,000 more since 2007. Triazolam/midazolam/zopiclone,
methamphetamine, MDMA, cannabis, cocaine, and cough medicine are
also regularly abused.

In 2009, the Hong Kong Government continued its efforts to combat
psychotropic substance abuse, particularly among Hong Kong's youth.
Beginning in December 2009, approximately 22,000 students in 23 Hong
Kong secondary schools will take part in a voluntary drug testing
pilot program through the remainder of school year 2009/2010.
Although public opposition to student drug testing on grounds of
privacy concerns initially stalled this project, the Hong Kong
Government stepped up its drug prevention public outreach against a
backdrop of widely reported psychotropic substance abuse cases
involving children. The goals of the school drug testing pilot
program are to deter youth substance abuse, to facilitate early
intervention for identified abusers, and to gain empirical data
applicable to further substance abuse prevention programs.

3. Actions Against Drugs in 2009
Policy Initiatives: The Hong Kong Government continued to employ
existing counternarcotics policies and strategies in drug prevention
efforts. As previously discussed, the formerly stalled plan for
voluntary drug testing in Hong Kong schools is moving forward with a
pilot program commencing December 2009, despite some public

Law Enforcement Efforts: Hong Kong's law enforcement agencies,
including the Hong Kong Police and Hong Kong Customs and Excise
Department (HKCE), 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: headquarters level 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.

HONG KONG 00002025 002 OF 004

The HKCE's Chemical Control Group, in cooperation with the U.S. Drug
Enforcement Administration (DEA) office in Hong Kong, continues to
closely monitor 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.

Corruption: The Government of Hong Kong SAR does not encourage or
facilitate illicit production or distribution of narcotic or
psychotropic drugs or other controlled substances, or 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 (ICAC), 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, the PRC advised the UN
Secretary General that the 1961 Single Convention, as amended by the
1972 Protocol, the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances, and
the 1988 UN Drug Convention apply to Hong Kong. The UN Convention
against Transnational Organized Crime and the UN Convention against
Corruption also apply to Hong Kong. Hong Kong has Mutual Legal
Assistance in Criminal Matters Agreements (MLAA) with the United
States and many other countries. Hong Kong currently has signed
Surrender of Fugitive Offenders Agreements with Australia, Canada,
Finland, Germany, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Korea, Malaysia, the
Netherlands, New Zealand, Philippines, Portugal, Singapore, Sri
Lanka, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Hong Kong has
also signed Transfer of Sentenced Persons Agreements with eight
countries, including the United States. Hong Kong law enforcement
agencies enjoy a close and cooperative working relationship with
their mainland counterparts and those in many other countries.

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 HKCE and the
U.S. DEA 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.

Cultivation and Production: Hong Kong is generally not considered a
significant producer of illicit drugs. However, Hong Kong law
enforcement authorities dismantled an indoor cannabis cultivation
operation and six small-scale crack cocaine production labs in 2009.

Drug Flow/Transit: Some drugs continue to transit Hong Kong for
destinations in overseas markets, including Australia, China, Japan,
Taiwan, Europe, and the United States. In September 2009, HKCE
officials seized two DHL packages destined for Sacramento,
California, containing approximately 46 kilograms of opium concealed
in wooden carvings and drums. On July 2009, Hong Kong law
enforcement officials were alerted to a shipment of 196 one-kilogram
bags of sugar and rice originated in India and destined for Taiwan,
seizing a one-kilogram bag of ketamine. Cocaine, amphetamine-type
stimulants (ATS; such as methamphetamine and MDMA), and ketamine
continue to be smuggled into Hong Kong. Although local cocaine
consumption is often sourced out of Southern China (Guangdong
Province), cocaine was transported directly into Hong Kong from
locations other than mainland China during 2009. In August 2009,
HKCE arrested at the Hong Kong International Airport an arriving
passenger possessing approximately six kilograms of cocaine hidden
within checked luggage clothing articles. The suspect had traveled
to Hong Kong from Lima, Peru, by way of Sao Paulo, Brazil and
Johannesburg, South Africa. On another occasion, a female courier
was arrested at Sao Paulo, Brazil's Guarulhos International Airport
also bound for Hong Kong with approximately 3.87 kilograms of
cocaine concealed in shampoo bottles. The female courier's
itinerary was: Lima, Peru; Sao Paulo, Brazil; Amsterdam, the
Netherlands; Hong Kong.

The heavy volume of vehicle and passenger traffic at the land
boundary between mainland China and Hong Kong poses 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, a significant and direct

HONG KONG 00002025 003 OF 004

connection between Hong Kong narcotics activity and Hong Kong triads
at the wholesale and manufacturing level does not exist. 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 remains prominent.

Domestic Programs/Demand Reduction: 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
2009, the Hong Kong Government's preventative education policy
efforts continued to focus on youth and parents. The Hong Kong
Government provides a comprehensive drug prevention program
throughout Hong Kong's education system.

In 2009, the Hong Kong Narcotics Division continued efforts to
educate Hong Kong adolescents about the detrimental effects of
commonly abused drugs by using public interest announcements through
TV and radio broadcasts, short internet films, and wide
dissemination of posters and printed materials. The Narcotics
Division also 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 its youth anti-drug message. The
Hong Kong Government continued its comprehensive public awareness
campaign to educate the public about the harmful effects of ketamine
and ecstasy, the two most commonly abused drugs among youth.

Since June 2004, the Hong Kong Narcotics Division has also
disseminated its anti-drug message through multimedia exhibits at
the Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust-funded Drug Information
Centre (DIC). 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 counternarcotics seminars
with parents, teachers, social workers and persons from various
uniformed groups.

The Hong Kong Government continued to implement its comprehensive
drug treatment and rehabilitation program in 2009. The Government's
fifth Three-year Plan on Drug Treatment and Rehabilitation Services,
released in April 2009, sets out the overall direction for enhancing
Hong Kong's treatment and rehabilitation services and increases
focus on early intervention efforts and programs that reach out to
substance abusers. The Department of Health and the Social Welfare
Department operate seven residential drug treatment centers and
several counseling centers for psychotropic substance abusers. The
Correctional Services Department continued to provide compulsory
treatment for convicted persons with drug abuse problems. While
these programs are welcomed in principle, Hong Kong residents are
averse to having treatment and rehabilitation programs in their

4. U.S. Policy Initiatives and Programs
Bilateral Cooperation: The U.S. Government and the HKSAR continue to
promote sharing of proceeds from joint counternarcotics
investigations. In May 2003, Hong Kong began participating in the
U.S. Container Security Initiative (CSI), which U.S. law enforcement
believes increases 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, HKCE, Hong Kong Department of Health, and
the U.S. DEA launched a joint operation to monitor the movement of
precursor chemicals 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, was indicative of the strong cooperation between Hong Kong
Government officials and their U.S. counterparts.

To further strengthen international cooperation against illicit drug
precursor trafficking, Hong Kong secured an agreement with the U.S.,
Mexico and Panama to impose stringent shipment controls in April
2005. Since the agreement's implementation, no large-scale shipments
of such products to Mexico or other high-risk countries have been
detected. Another cooperative chemical initiative was implemented in
February 2006 between the Hong Kong Government and the U.S. DEA to
monitor and track precursor chemical shipments sourced from
countries or territories in Asia, which transit through Hong Kong,
and are destined for high-risk countries.

The Road Ahead: The Hong Kong Government continues 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.

HONG KONG 00002025 004 OF 004


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