Use of cocaine surges with easier supply
More people are using cocaine in the city because it's cheaper and easier to get hold of, the government's anti-drug advisory body says.
The warning comes after police seized more than 130kg of the drug - one of the largest hauls this year - early yesterday morning and arrested six members of an overseas syndicate.
The cocaine had a street value of more than HK$140 million, investigators said, adding that some of it was intended for the local market and the rest destined for overseas.
The number of cocaine users in Hong Kong was rising in tandem with an increase in supply, said Pong Oi-lan, chairwoman of the Action Committee Against Narcotics Sub-committee on Preventive Education and Publicity.
In 2009, 4 per cent of new drug users had taken cocaine. In the first half of this year, that figure was up to 11 per cent.
'This is clearly a rising trend,' she said, noting that ketamine, Ice and heroin were still the dominant drugs.
She said cocaine, whose previously higher cost has traditionally attracted middle-class users on bigger salaries, was gaining popularity among youngsters seeking alternatives to ketamine.
While cocaine has increased in price per gram from HK$800 in 2009 to HK$1,200 this year, dealers have been marketing a freebase, or pure, form of the drug, which is significantly cheaper. Some research suggests this form of the drug is more harmful.
Dr Cheung Kin-leung, also of the action committee, a government advisory body, said buying the drug had become a lot easier. 'You just make the call and the drug is delivered to your door,' he said.
In yesterday's raids, police confiscated 80kg of cocaine from a recycling warehouse in Tuen Mun's Fuk Hang village and 50kg from four flats in Kowloon.
One American man and five Mexicans were arrested, said Fan Chor-fun of the Narcotics Bureau. Of the Mexicans, one was a woman who was pushing a stroller carrying her two-year-old son when she was approached by police, Fan said.
'The child was used as a foil,' she said, adding that the infant was taken to the Po Leung Kuk orphanage.
The operation began on Friday afternoon and could continue today to ensure that there were no drugs left at the 10,000 sq ft warehouse, Fan said.
'The cocaine could have come into Hong Kong by land or sea, but we're still trying to find out which way it came in,' Fan said, without disclosing the origin of the drugs.
The haul is expected to match the scale of an operation in April in which 147kg of cocaine was seized in Sha Tin.
Last year, more than 230kg of the drug was found in a Tai Po village.
Fan confirmed that the amount of cocaine intercepted by police has increased recently.
The action committee said recently that the overall number of drug users in the city had dropped, which it attributed to a government anti-drugs campaign.
But Pong said the number of people aged 41 and older taking drugs was up by 24.8 per cent from a year ago, although fewer people aged under 21 were using drugs.
The number of years in jail a former village leader got for storing the largest amount of cocaine ever seized in the city - 232kg