Hong Kong's growing appetite for methamphetamine was underlined yesterday as customs chiefs revealed a 300 per cent jump in the amount of Ice seized at the Lo Wu border crossing.
Soaring local demand and increased profits for traffickers made the drug - also known as crystal meth - a lucrative product for smugglers, said Wong Jug-tung, deputy head of the customs department's rail and ferry command.
While the number of drug cases at Lo Wu had dropped year-on-year, the amount of Ice seized in the first eight months of this year - 13.7kg - was 291 per cent more than the 3.5kg seized in the first eight months of last year.
Hong Kong's growing demand for the drug matches an explosion in its popularity globally, fuelled and met by production and distribution networks in Guangdong. The province is widely accepted to be one of the world's biggest sources of both the main ingredients for crystal meth and the finished product.
Wong said there had been seven significant drug seizures at the Lo Wu crossing in the past three weeks, all of which involved Hongkongers trying to smuggle crystal meth or ketamine from the mainland into the city.
Most of the 8.2kg of seized drugs were concealed inside packs strapped to the mules' bodies;. one 35-year-old male was discovered with a mixture of crystal meth and ketamine hidden in his underpants.
Although department figures showed at 13.5 per cent year-on-year drop in the number of drug cases at Lo Wu, the quantity of the drugs involved jumped substantially.
Apart from the surge in Ice seizures, the amount of ketamine confiscated in the first eight months of this year increased 76 per cent - from 2.5kg to 4.4kg - on the same period last year.
Wong said that at peak hours, about 30 people were passing through the Lo Wu control point at any given time, so risk profiling and assessment was key.
The easy availability of precursor materials - such as ephedrine and pseudoephedrine - combined with the entrenched organised crime landscape make Guangdong a hotbed for crystal meth manufacturing.
Much of the drugs transit through Hong Kong, where crime gangs take advantage of the city's transport and logistics infrastructure.
Hongkongers are frequently arrested across the Asia-Pacific region for their involvement in the smuggling or manufacture of the drug. A UN report last year on the drugs trade in Indonesia pinpointed the roles of both the city and Guangdong.
"Most of the crystalline methamphetamine smuggled from China exits from Guangzhou and then transits Hong Kong … or Singapore before entering Indonesia," read the study from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime.
Meanwhile, police yesterday arrested 31 people and seized drugs valued at more than HK$640,000 at two unlicensed bars in Tsim Sha Tsui. More than 500g of cocaine, 130 tablets of an unspecified Class A drug and a number of weapons were seized.