Hong Kong must continue cross-border co-operation on narcotics

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 19 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 19 May, 2013, 3:55am

One of the challenges to anti-drug authorities posed by the growing trade in methamphetamines is that they are easily produced in small, widely dispersed laboratories, so it is difficult to cut off at source. This has attracted international drug syndicates to the highly profitable logistics of getting large consignments together for shipment to markets in rich countries. To intercept these shipments and make arrests before distribution, narcotics agents need high-grade intelligence - and they need to share it across borders.

A case in point is the seizure in Sydney, Australia, of 72 litres of methamphetamine worth HK$330 million that arrived on a boat from China, and the arrest of two Hong Kong men for trying to take possession of it. The Australian authorities would say only that Hong Kong was just one jurisdiction working with them in the fight against methamphetamine trafficking. That safeguards sources of information. We can assume the Australians examined a pallet of shampoo and other hair products in which the drug was hidden because they had intelligence they trusted. The Hong Kong connection keeps Australia's narcotics agents busy. In the past year they have seized more than 700kg of crystal meth, or Ice, shipped through Hong Kong by syndicates with ties to this city. Southern China is a big producer of ephedrine, the main precursor chemical for Ice, and production thrives in Myanmar's border areas.

This has given rise to fears that Hong Kong is the main hub for trafficking methamphetamine to Australia - a perception that officials in the city are understandably sensitive about, given that it cherishes a well-earned reputation for law and order. But there is no shame in the fact that Hong Kong's status as an international transport and financial hub makes it a target for illegal cross-border activities, so long as it joins forces with other countries' law enforcement agencies to identify international drug syndicates, dismantle them and bring wrongdoers to justice.