America's leading spy agency has toned down its description of the drug problems in Hong Kong after the SAR's narcotics chief complained about its earlier assessment of the city as a hub for the region's heroin trade. In the 2000 version of its World Factbook - one of the CIA's few public documents - it said the SAR was conducting 'strenuous law enforcement efforts but faced serious challenges in controlling transit of heroin and methamphetamine to regional and world markets'. It also said there were rising numbers of people, especially the young, using synthetic drugs, and it described Hong Kong as a money laundering centre. In the 2001 version, it describes Hong Kong as 'a hub for [the] Southeast Asian heroin trade; transshipment and money-laundering centre; with increasing indigenous amphetamine use'. The old version, highlighted by the Sunday Morning Post in October last year, did not mention that Hong Kong had been taken off the White House's major drug-watch list in 2000. Hong Kong's Narcotics Commissioner, Claire Lo Ku Ka-lee, held a rare meeting with CIA representatives in Washington in November last year to seek an explanation for the description. Ms Lo said after the meeting that the CIA officials had failed to give convincing reasons and told her Hong Kong remained vulnerable because of its position. In response to the CIA's revised assessment this year, a spokesman for the Narcotics Bureau said Hong Kong's proximity to the Golden Triangle and the huge volume of traffic entering the SAR made it impossible to prevent all illicit drugs from entering the territory. But he said stringent enforcement and extradition agreements with various countries had greatly reduced Hong Kong's role as a transit point and the SAR would continue to maintain the approach to combat the problem. While the bureau did not say if it was happy with the revised assessment, it defended itself against the description of Hong Kong as a money laundering centre. The spokesman said the International Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering had commended Hong Kong for the efforts it had taken in combating the trade. He said Hong Kong was selected to take over the presidency of the taskforce for 2001/2002, which showed the international community had recognised the SAR's efforts in tackling drug and money laundering problems.