When drug traffickers are confronted by borders, they view them not as barriers but inconveniences to be bypassed. Smugglers are pressed into service as couriers, packages are hidden in mail or cargo. The law enforcement agencies that fight them, however, are constrained by international and regional borders that represent differing legal jurisdictions. SAR authorities have to work through official channels and liaise with counterparts abroad or in other parts of China when pursuing suspects or seeking intelligence.
The first conference of officials and experts from Hong Kong, Macau and Guangdong, which opened yesterday, should play an important role in overcoming some of the difficulties in stemming the flow of drugs. It will provide not only an opportunity to learn about the various approaches in those jurisdictions to the drug menace, but also give authorities an opportunity to further develop informal networks for sharing information.
Regular channels have long existed for the passing of intelligence. Yet traffickers constantly adopt new tactics and law enforcement agencies need to be able to exchange intelligence ever more efficiently.
With growing integration in the Pearl River Delta bringing the two Special Administrative Regions and Guangdong province closer together, traffickers can be expected to take advantage of the freer movement of people and goods. Officials need to respond by increasing co-operation, stepping up checks at crossing points and boosting anti-drug education.
Even though Hong Kong's role as a transshipment centre for drugs passing from the Golden Triangle in Southeast Asia through the mainland and then abroad has declined significantly in recent years, there is evidence of a rise in the use of so-called soft drugs such as Ecstasy and ketamine manufactured in mainland laboratories. This problem needs to be tackled aggressively before it grows to unmanageable proportions. Making resources available now will lead to far greater savings in the future.