The Hong Kong Drug Market by abstraks


									      The Hong Kong Drug Market

         A Report for UNICRI on
The UNDCP Global Study in Illicit Drug Markets

               November 2000

          By Karen A. Joe Laidler
    With David Hodson and Harold Traver

               Research Team:
                 Crystal Loh
                Simon Chong
                Lau Gar Lum
                 Nathania Ma
                  Bonnie Sze
              Jacqueline Cheung

           Centre for Criminology
          University of Hong Kong
              Pokfulam Road
          Hong Kong, SAR of China
                             The Hong Kong Drug Market

        Hong Kong often likes to think of itself as a unique place. In certain respects
this may be justified. Take the area of politics. On 1 July 1997, the British Crown
Colony of Hong Kong reverted to Chinese sovereignty, thus ending over 150 years of
British rule in the Far East. Unlike other former colonies, Hong Kong did not gain
independence but instead became a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the People‟s
Republic of China. Moreover, unlike Japan‟s return of Taiwan to China or the return
of European concessions in China to the Chinese authorities at the end of World War II,
Hong Kong operates on the principal of “one country, two systems”. Instead it has been
allowed to retain its capitalist system and some degree of political autonomy for 50 years.
To this extent, Hong Kong is a unique case in colonial history.

         Hong Kong also likes to think of itself as a bastion of free enterprise. From the
very beginning, Hong Kong has followed the economic policies of free trade and free
enterprise. There are no import tariffs, and revenue duties are levied only on tobacco,
alcohol, and some petroleum products. The only exception to this principle is a tax on
the first registration of motor vehicles. The Hong Kong tax system is simple and rates
are low by international standards. Profits of unincorporated businesses are taxed at
15%, corporations pay 16% and no one pays more than 15% on his or her earned income.
Reflecting its‟ origins as a trading base, economic planning is not officially practiced by
the Government of the Hong Kong SAR. The official view is that the role of the Hong
Kong Government is to provide a suitable and stable infrastructure for commerce and
industry to function efficiently and effectively with minimum interference.       Such
policies are widely seen to be the secret of economic success.

        Hong Kong certainly qualifies as one of Asia‟s outstanding economic success
stories. With a population of just under 7 million crowded into 1098 square km, the
territory has become the world‟s 8th largest trading entity. Hong Kong is also the
world‟s seventh largest center for foreign exchange trading, its stock market is one of the
world‟s largest in terms of market capitalization, and, after Japan, the banking sector‟s
external assets are the highest in Asia and amongst the highest in the world. Hong
Kong‟s economic expansion really began in earnest in the 1980s when it shifted away
from manufacturing in favor of services as a result of the opening up of China and its
cheaper labour market. Hong Kong‟s service sector is now among the most developed
in Asia. During 1990-97, the value added services sector rose at an average annual rate
of 14.4 percent to US$138 billion. Service industries currently employs 82 percent of
Hong Kong‟s work force and accounts for 85 percent of its Gross Domestic Product.

         Over the past two decades, the Hong Kong economy has increased three-fold,
with GDP growing at an average annual rate of about 5 percent in real terms. During
the same period per capita Gross Domestic Product in Hong Kong has more than doubled
in real terms, equivalent to an average annual growth rate of about 4 percent. As
impressive as these figures are they should be tempered with the knowledge that
increased wealth has tended to concentrate itself in a relatively small segment of Hong
Kong society. In 1996 the percentage of GDP controlled by the wealthiest 15% of
population stood at 84%, as compared with 48% in Singapore and 2% in Japan. This is

the highest figure in Asia and there is no reason to believe that the situation has changed
in recent years. In 2000 per capita GDP reached US$23,597, matching that of Britain
and France and is amongst the highest in Asia, next only to Japan. Despite any possible
concerns about an unequal distribution of wealth, the fact remains that in less than a
generation, average living standards in Hong Kong have reached international levels.

        Hong Kong may be an economic success today but its origins were less than
auspicious.     Hong Kong was founded on opium. It was seized almost by accident
during the course of the First Opium War in 1841. It was also repudiated by the British
authorities on the grounds that it was a “barren island with hardly a house upon on it” and
“would never become a mart for trade.” Initially, even some traders concurred with this
view and preferred to wait and see how the settlement might develop. However, it
quickly became apparent that any such concerns were largely irrelevant in the face of the
obvious advantages of offered by a trading post which was located on British soil,
possessed a deep water habour, and happened to be in close proximity to Guangzhou, at
that time the only port of access to China. From the British standpoint opium was a
completely legal and highly lucrative article of trade. The British administration
conveniently took the position that it was not their job to enforce Chinese laws
prohibiting the importation of opium. Freed from Chinese interference, Hong Kong
quickly established itself as one of the largest business centers for contraband opium
flowing into China.

         One of the first problems that the colonial administration in Hong Kong had to
face was finding a reliable source of revenue. Of the various options available to the
young colony, taxing the opium trade was deemed one of the most promising. The
major obstacle was that Hong Kong had been declared a free port in 1841 and thus tariffs,
a traditional way for governments to raise money, were unavailable. Moreover,
notwithstanding its free-port status, it would have been both politically and technically
difficult to seek to derive revenue from the colony‟s opium trade. Trade was Hong
Kong raison d’être and controlled by a few large trading firms with strong political
support in the United Kingdom. Interfering with the opium trade would have threatened
the very foundations of the colony. Consequently, the colonial administration turned its
attention to internal business activities as the only other available source of revenue.

        In 1844 it was resolved that government revenue could be derived from opium
without injuring internal commercial activities. In that year the colonial administration
was authorized to grant, on the basis of a competitive bid, a legal monopoly to sell raw
and prepared opium in the domestic market. There was a continual effort on the part of
the colonial administration to find ways to increase opium revenues which, in the 19th
century, ranged from less than 10% to around 25 % of total government revenue. By
the end of the 19th century there was growing international agitation against the trade in
opium in the Far East. However, the colonial administration in Hong Kong was not
inclined to abandon opium as a potential source of revenue. At its peak in 1918 opium
revenue was contributing over 46% of total government revenues. Taxes and regulations
might be revised and refined, but they would not be discarded. Hong Kong continued to
derive a significant proportion of its revenue from the sale of opium right up to the
beginning of World War II.

         Drug legislation in Hong Kong was confined to controlling and protecting the
retail sale of opium in Hong Kong in order to increase the revenue from its sale. The
retail price of government approved opium was inevitably higher than the price of illicit
opium smuggled into Hong Kong. Government control efforts were directed at

protecting and maintaining an important source of government revenue. This took the
form of the discovery and confiscation of illicit drugs. At first this was confined to
illicit opium but as other competing drugs started to enter into the drug market in the late
19th century attention came to include such alternative drugs as morphine and heroin.
At no time did the colonial administration show any interest in controlling or eliminating
the use of opium in Hong Kong. The primary object of concern was suppression of
competing drugs and protecting the opium monopoly.

Narcotics in Postwar Hong Kong
        The long slide into heroin really began in the final decades of the nineteenth
century, when missionaries introduced morphine into China as a cure for opium addiction.
By the end of the nineteenth century, factories in Europe and America were producing
amounts of morphine and heroin far in excess of the world's legitimate medical needs. By
the early twentieth century, when Western societies were beginning to realize the dangers
involved in the unlimited production and sale of narcotics, this surplus began to find its
way to the Far East, particularly China. Despite this fact, opium continued to dominate
the drug market in Hong Kong, as well as elsewhere in the Far East, well into the
twentieth century.

       Heroin made its first appearance in China from Europe in the early part of the 20th
century. The new drug soon found favor with opium addicts for various reasons.
Japanese pharmaceutical firms also started producing heroin on a large scale for the
Chinese market.

       Heroin pills appeared in the Far East around 1920 and their abuse grew to
enormous proportions. Initially they were taken orally but later they were smoked in a
manner similar to opium. In 1923, it was reported that 10 tons of heroin were used for the
sole purpose of manufacturing pills in China which were marketed as “anti-opium pills.”
The Geneva Convention of 1925 resulted in a rapidly decreasing supply of heroin from
Europe and narcotics dealers in China began manufacturing their own heroin with the
main center, in Shanghai.

        In Hong Kong, heroin abuse was first noticed in 1927 with the appearance of
heroin pills. The first heroin pill factory in Hong Kong was located in 1928 and by 1933,
the local manufacture had become firmly established. The consumption of heroin pills
appears to have peaked in 1939 when 3.7 million pills were seized and the Hong Kong
Government estimated that 110 million pills were manufactured illegally. It was
estimated that there were 5,557 opium addicts who obtained their supplies from
legitimate sources, 30,000 heroin pill addicts and an estimated 40,000 opium addicts who
obtained their supplies from illegitimate sources.

       In 1936, the first case in which heroin had been manufactured illegaly in Hong
Kong was discovered by the police. In 1939, the Government noted the first case in
which there was evidence of the preparation and smoking of cigarettes in which a small
quantity of heroin was found.

        It is curious that despite these figures, no one seem to have regarded the abuse of
heroin pills as “heroin addiction”, and most observers regard the “heroin problem” in
Hong Kong as appearing post-war. It may be that new methods of consumption, smoking,
chasing the dragon and injection, resulted in a more severe form of addiction than had
resulted from smoking heroin pills.

        In August 1943, following the statement of the American intention to close all
opium monopolies in Japanese-occupied territories when they were reoccupied, Britain
finally agreed to the complete prohibition of opium in its territories in the Far East
(Miners 1983). When Britain regained control of Hong Kong in 1945, the British
Military Administration issued a Proclamation (No. 13 of 1945) that suspended the
Opium Ordinance of 1932 and classified opium as a dangerous drug subject to the
Dangerous Drugs Ordinance of 1935. With repeal of the Opium Ordinance in 1946 (No.
2 of 1946), Hong Kong's long involvement in the sale of opium formally came to an end.
In terms of restrictive legislation opium and heroin were, for the first time, treated as
being the same.

        The argument in favor of a link between restrictive opium legislation and the
switch to heroin is, on the surface, a persuasive one, resting, as it does, on the relative
advantages of heroin in its shipment and use. Heroin is odorless, occupies a fraction of
the space that opium would occupy, can be cut with a variety of substances, and divided
into precise doses. It can be transported easily by the user and used without elaborate
equipment or divans. In contrast, opium is relatively bulky, deteriorates rapidly, and, if
smoked, has a distinctive odor that is not easily masked. Given the relative "merits" of
heroin, any restrictions placed on the use of opium would, logically speaking, encourage
drug users to switch to the more practical alternative, namely, heroin.

       In Hong Kong the first postwar indication of the change to heroin occurred in the
Commerce and Industry Annual Report of 1948/49, when it was noted that the traffic in
heroin, "which had almost disappeared after the war, is now steadily on the increase.'' In
1952 the police reported that increased activity on their part had resulted in the complete
elimination of opium divans from tenement buildings as well as a considerable reduction
in the use of opium. At the same time, they went on to comment that morphine and
heroin in white powder form were appearing in increasing quantities and that, as neither
of these required premises, pipes, or paraphernalia, peddling of these substances in the
streets and cafes was on the increase. A year later, it was noted that additional police
pressure on the morphine and heroin trade had led increasingly to dealers resorting to the
distribution of small doses in the street (Royal Hong Kong Police 1952/1953).

       Fort and Way (1965) were among the first to call attention publicly to the
predominance of heroin addicts over opium addicts in Hong Kong in the early 1960s.
Lau and Yap (1967), in an extensive study of drug usage in Hong Kong, supported this
observation. Between 1961 and 1963, out of 968 addicts only 128 (13.2 percent) used
opium; 501 addicts (51.8 percent) had used opium initially but switched to heroin
subsequently; another 339 (35.0 percent) had used heroin exclusively throughout.
Westermeyer (1976) has pointed out that ten years later a similar study (SARDA, 1972)
of addict-patients in Hong Kong found that, out of 782 addicts, 87 (11.1 percent)
continued to use opium and another 170 (21.7 percent) had used opium initially before
changing to heroin, while 525 (67.1 percent) had used heroin only. In other words, in
ten years the number of current and initial opium users had declined by more than 30
percent, while the number of current heroin users had increased by a similar amount.

       The shift away from opium is also reflected in the arrest figures for narcotic
offenses in Hong Kong. Between 1952/53 and 1955/56 the number of heroin offenses
increased from 400 to 11,037, while the number of opium offenses remained more or less
unchanged (in 1952/3, 4,434 and in 1955/56, 4,264). In 1954/55 heroin offenses
exceeded opium offenses for the first time, and by 1955/56 heroin offenses outweighed

opium offenses by nearly 3 to 1. In 1989 only 0.2 percent (14 out of 6719) of minor
narcotic offenses (usually possession) involved opium. Currently, over 90 percent of all
drug abuse in Hong Kong involve heroin use (Narcotics Division 2000).

        On the one hand, the decline in opium smoking and the subsequent rise in heroin
is an indisputable fact, but the role that legislation played in the matter is open to
question. On the other hand, it is difficult to see what exactly there was about postwar
legislation and control efforts that might have served to produce this change. After all,
the Hong Kong government had struggled for decades to suppress the sale and
consumption of illicit opium without much apparent success. This was the case even in
the face of a clear economic incentive for the government to formulate and pursue
effective control policies.

         A more fruitful way of looking at the rise and fall of opium might be to ask why
opium smoking persisted for as long as it did when there were clearly more profitable
and cost-effective drugs in the marketplace. A possible answer may lie in the differing
sentencing policy. Opium offenses usually attracted a fine whereas heroin offenses
usually resulted in some form of custodial sentence. These fines were often paid by divan
operators, who considered them as a business overhead and therefore there appeared to
be no real deterrent effect on the user other than the inconvenience of having to attend
court. This coupled with syndicated corruption in the 1950s and 1960s may have been

        Stated in this way, one is encouraged to consider how government intervention in
the sale or distribution of drugs affected consumer demand. Quite simply, opium
smoking persisted well into the twentieth century because of official commitment to its
promotion and sale. The fact that it lasted as long as it did attests to the authorities'
persistence in promoting opium in the face of stiff competition from other drugs, as well
as their willingness to withstand international opposition to the opium trade. What
changed in the postwar years was not the prohibition of opium, since attempts to
eliminate illicit opium had been going on for decades, but rather the elimination of the
government opium monopoly. Opium declined not because restrictive legislation drove
smokers to heroin but because, when official support was withdrawn from its sale, users
were drawn toward heroin as the more cost-effective and convenient drug. Heroin was
also a safer drug in the sense that its possession and use were less easily detected by the
authorities. Heroin merely moved in to fill the gap left by the withdrawal of official
involvement in opium.

        The most obvious and possibly far-reaching consequence of official involvement
in the opium trade was that the governments concerned quickly became "economically
drug dependent." In the case of Hong Kong, as well in other parts of the Far East where
opium monopolies provided a source of government revenue, it was in the government's
interests to promote the sale of opium, while taking steps to stem the flow of competing
drugs. The situation is analogous to our current reliance on alcohol and tobacco as a
source of government revenue. The only difference then was in the degree of official
commitment and amount of revenue generated by its continued promotion and sale
although the Government does ban much tobacco advertising and discourages its use.

        The elimination of government opium monopolies in 1943 meant, among other
things, that the Hong Kong government no longer had an immediate economic incentive
to suppress proscribed drugs. It also meant the government had lost the ability to compete
directly for attention in the drug market and to shape consumer preferences. Whereas

before 1943 the government exercised a legitimate claim over at least one segment of the
drug trade, it was now prohibited from any form of involvement. As a consequence of
this the consumption of drugs in Hong Kong ceased to be of any immediate economic
concern to the government and became instead just another social problem. Finally, and
probably most important, the withdrawal of the Hong Kong government from the opium
trade had the effect of turning the entire drug trade over to organized crime. From this
point onward the drug trade would be more or less free to follow consumer demand as
well as the dictates of organized crime.

1. Supply
                                   Enterprise Organization
     Hong Kong, with one of the world‟s largest cargo container terminals, has had a
longstanding role as a “business center” for heroin distribution, and from 1987 until very
recently, was known as a transit point for heroin going to other countries like the U.S.,
Canada, and Australia. On 1 November 2000, the U.S. government removed Hong Kong
from the “blacklist” of countries playing a major role in the trans-shipment of drugs
internationally (Narcotics Division Press Release 2/11/00). According to the U.S.
government, the removal of Hong Kong from the “blacklist” was due to its‟ decreased
role as a transit point and its‟ establishment of strong cooperative law enforcement ties
and extradition agreements with other countries. From the Hong Kong perspective, this
removal from the “blacklist” is recognition of its longstanding efforts to address the
international trafficking of heroin. According to local authorities, Hong Kong‟s role has
been on the decline since 1992.

        While Hong Kong‟s law enforcement action must be applauded, there are, of
course, other factors to consider in Hong Kong‟s changing role in the drug market
internationally and locally. The demand for Southeast Asian heroin in some of the
countries historically associated with Hong Kong as a transit point have started to decline.
According to U.K. customs officials, the vast majority of heroin imported there is
Southwest Asian heroin as consumers favor its cheaper price and its smokeable qualities.
The U.S., where heroin use is on the decline, has diversified sources for heroin, with
most regions showing preference for brown tar smuggled across the Mexican border.

        Canada is a notable exception with its rise in heroin use. But the role of Hong
Kong in the export of heroin to Canada has changed in two significant ways. First,
although the principal stakeholders trafficking Southeast Asian heroin to Canada have
not changed (they are from Hong Kong but may not necessarily be residents), their
methods have changed. According to several overseas customs officials, stakeholders
have become increasingly sophisticated. They have the ability to move in and out of Asia
and the West with relative ease. They have established networks within the region and in
other countries. They have acquired and/or know how to raise substantial capital to make
drug transactions. They know penalties in Hong Kong are severe and have developed
precautions to protect their assets. They also have become highly skilled in using
advanced technology to facilitate their operations (e.g., using stored value phone cards
and stolen SIM cards to avoid surveillance and tracking) and avoid the consequences of
Hong Kong‟s legislation dealing with the financial aspects of drug trafficking. These
characteristics of current stakeholders combined with China‟s open door policy has had
dramatic effects on the export and import of drugs.

       The present method for trafficking heroin into Canada entails the following process.
A Canadian resident (often of Hong Kong origins) raises the capital for the transaction,
flies into Hong Kong and either within Hong Kong or across the border in Shenzhen or
Macau meets and arranges a deal with organizers. Organizers disperse with several going
to Southern China, especially Guangzhou to arrange the shipment. The supply is sent
from Thailand or Myanmar overland into China, sometimes, Kunming, and then across to
Guangzhou which is now one of the main cargo container terminals in China. Once there,
it is concealed in a container and placed into a feeder ship. The container is then placed
into a larger vessel in Hong Kong and through various routes, finds its way to the coast
of Canada. Of course this method may vary depending on exactly how the container is
shipped from China to Canada. Whether Hong Kong is considered a point of passage or a
transiting point is a subject of current debate. In either case, it is clear that Hong Kong

serves as a “business center” for the negotiations of heroin trafficking (but to a lesser
extent than in the 1980s). This ability to arrange drug transaction with Hong Kong as the
business locale and Southern China as the operational site has a direct and important
bearing on the importation of drugs into Hong Kong.

     Because drugs are not produced or manufactured in Hong Kong, supplies for local
consumption are all imported (Narcotics Division 2000a). There are a variety of methods
depending on the drug. Heroin and methamphetamine are smuggled into Hong Kong
usually by land. The source country for local heroin consumption is from the Golden
Triangle, across into Yunnan, then to Guangxi and enters Hong Kong via Guangdong
province. Small shipments are smuggled across the land border, normally by truck
drivers and by foot across the Shenzhen-LoWu border. Diagram 1-1 provides details on
the process, organizational structure, and monies involved in trafficking heroin into Hong

                                    Diagram 1.1
                         Trafficking Heroin into Hong Kong

                           Golden Triangle, 80% to 90% purity
          Supplier sells at price of HK$75,000 per unit with 700 grams=1 unit
                   Represents a group of “investors” of 2 to 7 people
  Arranges transaction with supplier, receipt & packaging in Guangzhou or Shenzhen
    Broker buys at HK$75,000 per unit, and charges investors HK$10,000 per unit.
                   Broker pays HK$1,000 to HK$5,000 for carrying
                             Operates with courier controller
                                By truck, typically 1 driver
               By train or walking across border, usually 3 to 4 couriers
                              Investors divide “investment”
Investors arrange pick up 1 to 2 units Investors purchase at price of HK$85,000 per unit
                                   with 700 grams=1unit
                                 Adulterated to 40% purity
               Distributor receives and sends for cutting and packaging.
                                 Adulterated to 40% purity
        Purchases from investor at HK$105,000 per unit with 700 grams=1 unit

                                  Street Level Trafficking
   Distributors sell via low level dealers (either work for or purchase from distributor)
          Street level price of approximately HK$400 per grams for 40% purity

         According to the police, there are approximately 10 Hong Kong syndicates that
have the ability (e.g., contacts and resources) to go to China to arrange and carryout
wholesale transactions for heroin importation. These transactions normally involve a
group of investors (between 2 and 7 people) who contact and meet with their “broker”
either locally or across the border. Our interviews with users estimate that there are 3 to 4
principal organizers or brokers who move heroin into Hong Kong. There is no evidence
of aggressive competition or any attempts to develop a monopoly by any one broker or
syndicate. The relatively limited level of violence associated with drugs generally
appears to be at the retail level. Available information suggests that there are a number of
individuals who may, through their triad group affiliation, have found an opportunity
with others who seek profits from drug trafficking (as well as other illegal lucrative
activities). Importantly, investors at the wholesale level as well as dealers at the retail
level do not operate in a well-identified “firm” or enterprise fashion. Rather, investors
and dealers generally establish loose informal connections with individual members of
their own or another group (including rival triad groups), and join together with other like
minded opportunistic individuals for legitimate and illegitimate purposes. The triad or
group is important only to the extent that it provides the context for establishing
connections between individuals. I have described this framework elsewhere as
“individualistic opportunities and associational networks (Joe 1995). The triad as a
group, then, is not organized for the explicit purpose of engaging in particular or distinct
types of crime like drug trafficking.

         The broker arranges the purchase and shipment of heroin and pays the supplier
HK$75,000 per unit (1 unit=700 grams). Police indicate that the broker has a contact in
China who then arranges the transaction in the Golden Triangle. Normally, the broker
does not go directly to the source country. Once the shipment arrives in Yunnan, it is
brought over to Guangdong via Guangxi, packaged and stored. The broker pays a courier
between HK$1,000 and HK$5,000 to bring the supply into Hong Kong. Couriers, who
are the most vulnerable to arrest, are typically unemployed or in working or lower class
occupations, males, between the ages of 19 and 40, sometimes users themselves and most
importantly, have incurred debts with “street financing institutions” or loansharks (which
are operated by triad members). Couriers appear to believe that the benefits outweigh the
risks although their involvement is very likely not solely due to the financial aspects but
also to lessen the chance of their being assaulted for their outstanding debts. Lorry
drivers are sometimes recruited as couriers and conceal the drug either on their body, in
their underwear, or sometimes, hidden underneath their legitimate goods (e.g., vegetables,
etc.) Another common method is to recruit 3 to 4 couriers (including women) who strap
the package on their body or in their bags and walk across or take the train to the border.

        Once the supply arrives in Hong Kong, the investors arrange pick up and
purchase of their units. Each investor typically buys one to two units. The transaction at
this level often occurs in a car park. The lorry driver will deliver the supply to a car park,
and transfer it to another car. This car then drives to another parking lot where the
investors are waiting for their supply. The broker charges investors approximately
HK$85,000 per unit, thereby making a profit of HK$10,000 per unit. From here, the
investor sells to one or more distributors at a price of HK$105,000 per unit. The
distributor then arranges for cutting (typically to 40% purity) and packaging. Once cut to

this level, the retail price per gram, at present, ranges between HK$350 and HK$400.
Police indicate that distributors sometimes sell their units to a lower level trafficker after
cutting, and this second level trafficker then sells for the retail market.

        According to police, there are only about 4 levels in heroin trafficking and at each
stage, and given the severe penalties, measures are taken to reduce potential risks. For
example, contact between parties is made using 10 different mobile phone SIM cards,
and thrown away once used. The broker and investors recognize the potential profit and
relatively low risk of police detection as they have removed themselves from directly
handling the drugs. Police sources suggest that the only time the broker becomes
concerned, is if he/she acts simultaneously as an investor. The overall profits, however,
seem marginal given that the majority of their monies are spent on lifestyle and gambling.
Financial investigations have indicated that at the higher level, traffickers do not have a
great deal of assets.

        Ephedrine, the precursor chemical for methamphetamine is readily and easily
accessible in China as it is a stimulant found in the plant, ephedra, native to China and
used in Chinese medicines (Hong Kong Police 1996). In 1994, the Hong Kong Police
located the first local manufacturing center for the production of ice and seized 22
kilograms. According to the news report,

       The four people arrested were members of the 14K Yee triad society, whose
       official meeting place above a shop in North Point was also uncovered during the
       raids. „We [the police] believe the syndicate has been active in ice trafficking for
       some time, but we believe we broke it up at the beginning of their plans to
       manufacture it in Hong Kong‟. The synthetics used to make the ice had come
       from a mainland crime group operating near Guangzhou and smuggled to Hong
       Kong for final processing in the Sha Tin flat. „They were importing the mixture
       from china and then treating it and combining it with other liquids in Hong Kong
       until it was crystallized and was in its purest form,‟ Chief Inspector Yeung said.
       (South China Morning Post 1994a:7)

         In that year, the police also seized a total of 100 kilograms of ice that was
imported overland from China and suspected to be destined for the Philippines. A lorry
driver and an electrical worker were arrested while unloading the ice in bags labeled as
“duck feed” from a truck in a car park. The High Court judge imposed a 20 year prison
term (although a life term was possible), based on the fact that they were not the main
traffickers, and that the driver was to make between HK$4,000 and HK$5,000 for a
consignment worth between HK$30 million and HK$50 million (South China Morning
Post 1994b). At that time, police indicate that most of the ice imported into Hong Kong
was ultimately destined for other Asian countries including Japan, the Philippines and
Korea. Importantly, in that year, the wholesale and local retail price ranged between
HK$30,000 and HK$50,000 per kilogram, and HK$89 and HK$107 respectively. As
reported in section 3, while the wholesale prices are consistent from 1995 onward, the
retail price in 1994 and 1995 are considerably lower than the costs from 1996 onward. It
is unclear what impact the complete move of manufacturing and production to the
mainland had on the rise of local retail prices.

        From 1996 onwards, it appears that ice for local consumption in Hong Kong has
been completely manufactured in China (that is, there has been no evidence of
re-crystallizing it in Hong Kong). It is likely that the risks of manufacturing in Hong
Kong were perceived to be too high, particularly in light of the compactness and density

of Hong Kong. Interviews with officials and observations from news reports indicate that
clandestine laboratories had emerged, scattered throughout China, but particularly, in
Yunnan, Guangdong and Fujian provinces. Compared to Hong Kong, the availability of
locales in a vast area makes China a more suitable and less risky venue for manufacturing.
Still, the potential legal consequences of manufacturing and trafficking in China are
comparatively more severe than in Hong Kong. Chinese officials have responded to the
emergence of these laboratories by stepping up their aggressive anti-drugs campaign,
using the death penalty for ice traffickers and introducing regulations on management of
as well as export of ephedrine. In 1997, a ceremonial burning of 150 kilograms of ice
took place at the site of the Opium War in Guangdong (South China Morning Post
1997a). In 1999, mainland Chinese authorities seized 16.059 tons of ice (National Affairs
Office, PRC 2000). Chinese authorities have not hesitated to impose the death sentence.
In November 2000, five men were executed in Yunnan province for trafficking ice, and
another 11 were given sentences ranging from three years to suspended death sentence
(South China Morning Post 2000a).

        Surprisingly, in 1998, police claimed that the majority of ice entering Hong Kong
was for local consumption, the police note, however, that there have been a number of
unusually large seizures in Hong Kong, which appear to have been destined to other
countries. For example, seizure figures for 1998 reached a record with 233.7 kilograms
which was largely attributable to a 160 kilogram seizure of ice worth HK$82 million
(along with 7 kilograms of heroin worth HK$17 million) arriving from a container vessel
from Foshan in Guangdong Province believed to be headed for the Philippines or
Indonesia. Two Hong Kong males (one a hawker and one unemployed) were arrested in a
Shamshuipo car park along with two mainland Chinese after police located the drugs in
the trunk and rear passage seat of the car Chinese (South China Post 1998). According to
police, “Statistics tell us that we are not a transit point, but this case… yes, it could be
that Hong Kong is becoming one” (South China Morning Post 1998). Since then, smaller
quantities have been found. In April 2000, 20 kilograms, worth HK$10 million, was
found packed and hidden underneath boxes of tissue in cartons, being loaded onto a
container and headed for Australia (South China Morning Post 2000b). A 19 year old
male, boarding a flight for Tokyo, was arrested during the same week when authorities
found HK$29 million worth of ice packed on his body (South China Morning Post
2000c). A few days later, an 18 year old male, casual laborer, was also arrested at the
airport when customs officials found 1.4 kilograms of heroin and 2.3 kilograms of ice,
worth a total of HK$2.3 million (South China Morning Post 2000d).

     The method for importing ice for local consumption is understood to be the same as
for heroin (although after interviewing several officers, we were unable to acquire
in-depth details on the organization for ice and the profits at each level). According to
several police officers, the principal organizers of heroin are typically the same as of ice
and involves approximately 3 to 4 tiers in the organization from purchasing to moving
the supply into Hong Kong. A broker arranges the transaction in China, usually
Guangdong, where the shipment is held in storage. A courier (often times a lorry driver)
drives the shipment down to the border area of Shenzhen. Different methods are used to
bring it across the border. Low level couriers carry or bodypack small quantities and walk
across the LoWu border. For example, in 1999, customs officers arrested a 21 year old
Hong Kong male who was carrying four shampoo bottles filled with ice. Six more
shampoo bottles of ice were located at his apartment in Wong Tai Sin. Low level couriers
have also tried to bring ice into Hong Kong on the Kowloon Train which connects Hong
Kong to the mainland.

         The shipments are normally in crystalline form, but recently, there have been a
few cases involving a liquid version of methamphetamine. In December 1999, a
passenger was arrested after found to be carrying 7.14 kilograms of liquified
methamphetamine (South China Morning Post 2000e). Because of the heavy daily traffic
(especially goods vehicles) across the Hong Kong and Shenzhen border, authorities
indicate that lorry drivers are a good source for importing drugs into the locale. Larger
quantities are often brought in by lorry compared to couriers who walk across the border.
Customs officers state that they simply can not check every vehicle passing across the
border. Drivers usually conceal the package somewhere in their load, for example, under
baskets of vegetables. In April 2000, customs officers arrested a truck driver who was
carrying a plastic container filled with 18 kilograms of liquified methamphetamine in a
20 litre container on a lorry at the Lok Ma Chau border checkpoint (South China
Morning Post 2000f).

        Once the supply enters into Hong Kong, larger quantities, brought in by drivers,
are normally delivered to a car park and transferred to a car or taxi and taken for
packaging and storage. These carpark “drop off” points are sometimes located in villages
in the outlying areas and sometimes within the urban center. Two examples are cited:

       Authorities seized 10 kilograms of the designer drug „ice‟ that had been
       manufactured in China. The 10 bags of ice were worth about HK$1.2 million.
       Some was for local consumption with the rest bound for Southeast Asian
       countries such as Thailand. Six men aged 30 to 55 were arrested at a Tai Po
       multi-storey car park and two village houses in the New Territories (South China
       Morning Post 1997b, P3).

       The judge was told police saw Macatangay getting into a car in Kwong Wa Street,
       Mongkok. He was followed until he reached the Holiday Inn in Tsim Sha Tsui
       and parked next to a waiting car. Yuen, who was in the other car, got out and
       opened the boot. He removed a suitcase and carrier bag, which he inspected with
       Macatangay. It was alleged that after inspecting the bag and the suitcase, the pair
       carried them to the curb. Police said they later found nearly 30 kilograms of ice in
       the suitcase and the bag. (South China Morning Post 2000e, P.5).

      Smaller quantities, walked across the border are sometimes brought back to the
courier‟s flat (as in the shampoo bottle case above), delivered to another courier or placed
in a locker near the train station. Another courier picks up the supply to deliver to a
packaging center. The following case illustrates the courier‟s method and, at the same
time, provides the “double” vulnerability of couriers. (They are vulnerable to the dangers
of police detection and the drug syndicate.)

       The mysterious femme fatale, nicknamed Coca Cola Boy, lured…Li Hin Yiu, 18
       in a karoake bar this year and she immediately slipped him free packets of the
       designer drug „ice‟…He quickly became hooked and was left unable to cope with
       life without further supplies of the drug…Li ran up a HK$7,000 debt to the ice
       supplier and agreed to join her trafficking operation as a way of paying her
       back…He was arrested at Hunghom railway station on May 14 after collecting 76
       grams from a locker. Li was released on bail and was determined to escape from
       the woman‟s clutches. He moved to Sha Tin but was caught by the supplier when
       he returned to Kowloon to collect his belongings. Mr. Lam said Coca Cola boy
       threatned to harm members of his family if he did not pay his debt. In desperation,
       the teenager agreed to take part in another drugs run. He was arrested by police in

       Mongkok on June 6 and found to be in possession of 37 grams of ice. (South
       China Morning Post 1996a:6).

        Couriers are often young males (but not exclusively) who are unemployed, seek
quick money to pay off mounting debts to loan sharks, and sometimes drug users
themselves. Despite the risks and severe penalties for ice, the amount of money made as
a courier is relatively small.

       A heroin trafficker returned to peddling drugs so he could pay his HK$50,000
       bail from an earlier offense. Chan, 26, was sentenced to 14 years in prison. He
       was found with HK$750,000 worth of heroin and the designer drug ice on March
       17 last year after police staked out a flat in Yau Ma Tei. They burst into the room
       to find Chan, wearing rubber gloves, packing the drugs into plastic shopping bags.
       The unemployed drug addict was released on HK$50,000 bail, which he had to
       borrow from friends. But during the summer of 1995, pressure mounted for him
       to repay the loan. (South China Morning Post 1996b:5).

       Hui told Constable Kwan in a caution statement made immediately after his arrest
       that „Ah Lun‟ was waiting for him in a Castle Peak pool hall…Hui was stopped at
       Sheung Wan MTR station carrying a shopping bag with more than 700 grams of
       the designer drug „ice‟ inside. The drugs had a street value of about HK$74,000.
       Hui had told police he was lured into the drug trade after he fell HK$50,000 in
       debt. „Ah Lun‟ said he could solve Hui‟s problem by paying him HK$2,000 if he
       would „drag‟ things for him. The dealer arranged for Hui to pick up the wrapped
       package of drugs from a rubbish heap in Boundary Street, Kowloon… He was
       told to drop it at a telephone booth near Exit D at Sheung Wan MTR. (South
       China Morning Post 1996c:7).

        The amount of money made as a courier carrying across the border is estimated to
be from HK$2,000 to HK$5,000. Comparatively, possession of one kilogram of ice or
heroin results in at least 18 and 20 years (See Table 1.1).

                                   Table 1-1
    Current Sentencing Guidelines For Major Drugs on the Hong Kong Market

                          Heroin and Cocaine Sentencing Guidelines
              Weight of Salts of Esters of Morphine     Sentence
              or Weight of Pure Cocaine
                     up to 10 gms                       2-5 yrs
                     10 to 50 gms                       5-8 yrs
                     50 to 200 gms                      8-12 yrs
                     200 to 400 gms                     2-15 yrs
                     400 to 600 gms                     5-20 yrs
                     600 gms and above                  20 plus yrs

                          Methamphetamine Sentencing Guidelines
              Weight of Ice                 Sentence

              Up to 12 gms                       3-7 yrs
              10 to 70 gms                       7-10 yrs
              70 to 300 gms                      10-14 yrs
              300 to 600 gms                     14-18 yrs
              600 gms and above                  18 years plus

                                Opium Sentencing Guidelines
              Weight of raw or prepared Opium     Sentence
              Over 500 gms                          to 12 mos.
              Over 1000 gms                       -2 yrs
              Over 2000 gms                       -3 yrs
              Over 3000 gms                       -4.5 yrs
              Over 6000 gms                       .5-6 yrs
              Over 9000 gms                         yrs plus

                              CannabisSentencing Guidelines
              Weight of Cannabis Resin       Sentence
              Over 500 gms                   4 to 8 mos.
              Over 1000 gms                  8 to 16 mos.
              Over 2000 gms                  16 to 24 mos.
              Over 3000 gms                  24 to 36 mos.
              Over 6000 gms                  36 to 48 mos.
              Over 9000 gms                  4 yrs. plus

                                Ecstasy Sentencing Guidelines
              By weight/# of tablets                Sentence
              <25 gms (200 tablets)                 Directed by Judge
              25-400 gms (200-3200 tablets)         2-4 yrs.
              400-800 gms (32,000-64,000 tablets) 4-8 yrs.
              >800 gms (>64,000 tablets)            >8 yrs.

        According to the police, the increasing numbers of Hong Kong people moving
across the border to take advantage of the cheaper standard of living has provided a new
and wide source for finding couriers.

       Luk Wai-kong, 30, a cook… was born and raised in Hong Kong, but after losing
       his job in 1998, he moved Shenzhen because of the cheaper cost of living
       there…He formed a relationship with a mainland woman who became pregnant
       and he decided to marry her. But by this time he had run up debts of HK$15,000
       with financial institutions and could not afford to make the HK$1,600 a month
       repayments. He was befriended by a drug dealer at a Shenzhen disco. The gang
       member learned of his circumstances, and after about a month, offered Luk
       work…He could not resist the offer of HK$5,000 to make a „delivery‟ to Hong
       Kong…Luck was given a rucksack containing the drugs at the railway station in
       Shenzhen. During the trip, he received a telephone call instructing him to place

       the drugs in a car park litter bin on his arrival in Kowloon. But he was intercepted
       by police. (South China Morning Post 2000g:5).

        Supplies of ice are sometimes stored in distribution centers in buildings or flats
(often outside of the main urban centers, but not always). The quantities may vary but
range from 1.4 kilograms to 35 kilograms. In 1999, the police arrested a 20 year old
former public relations hostess and her boyfriend, a part time cook who owed
HK$200,000 for his mother‟s health costs, for running a packaging center. From this
arrest and a prior one, she was found to be in possession of 5.8 kilograms of heroin
(worth HK3.7 million), 6 kilograms of ice, and drug paraphernalia. From the distribution
center, couriers bring the smaller quantities to the urban center for retail sales and are
usually stored in flats. Numerous arrests have been made at this level in the Yau Ma Tei

      Smuggling by sea is typically used as a means of importing herbal cannabis, with
the source country being Cambodia and Thailand traveling via the southern coast of
China and being stored in Guangzhou and sometimes coming directly from the
Philippines. Beyond this, the police provided little information on the enterprises and
distribution method of cannabis. However, a few officers did note that some cannabis is
moved into Hong Kong with other drugs, like ice and MDMA manufactured in China.
This is not surprising as Guangdong is not only a manufacturing site for ice, but also has
a large cargo container operation. This cargo container terminal is well suited for
concealing and transporting drugs. Arrest reports on seizures also indicate that cannabis
is being shipped into Hong Kong with other drugs.

      Air transportation is normally used for moving cocaine and MDMA as these are
relatively expense substances (compared to heroin and ice) and the great distance of the
source country (South America and Netherlands respectively). Most of the cocaine
coming into Hong Kong is by use of air couriers using body packs and by postal
packages. The majority of MDMA in Hong Kong, however, is manufactured in Southern
China. The police unfortunately have few details at the enterprise and wholesale level.
The following section provides details on retail sales of MDMA and ketamine.

                                Wholesale-Retail Logistics
        Once the distributor has received his unit(s)of heroin, the supply is sent for
cutting and packaging. At the street level, sellers and users are well aware of purity levels
and associated costs. Heroin with a purity level of 70% to 90% is typically referred to as
U.S. Dollar Heroin, and at present, costs approximately HK$700 per gram. None of the
users interviewed had tried U.S. Dollar heroin. Most heroin at the street level is referred
to as “local money” and has a purity content of between 15% and 65%. The Government
Laboratory reports that there are a variety of cutting agents used for street level number 4
heroin including caffeine, paracetamol, chlorpheniramine, theophylline, antipyrine,
carbetapentane, and phenobarbitone. Th expression number 4 heroin refers to the powder
form of heroin and no longer is related to its historical meaning in Hong Kong. Our
respondents also indicate that in the last two years they believe their purchase was cut
with ice. In one case, this was confirmed through urinalysis, and in several other cases,
users reported an „odd‟ high, not associated with their normal heroin use. Several heroin
users also reported buying heroin in about 1998 that they were convinced was cut with
Midazolam since they had experienced and dislike the high which was similar to that
when they had tried such a mixture on their own. The government chemist provides
support for this trend, having seen this mixture for a few months, two years ago.

        The main methods of packaging are heat sealed plastic drinking straws, heat
sealed plastic baggies, and multi-layered plastic and paper wrappings made into „”fish
balls,” which are then heat sealed. The sealing is done to protect the seller in case he/she
has to swallow the supply to avoid arrest. The size of the straw packets or fishballs vary
from 0.2-0.7 grams and has no apparent relationship with purity. According to the
Government chemist, “plastic bag packets are more varied” (Hong Kong Government
Laboratory 2000:5).

                                         Table 1-2
                           Seizure of Major Drugs in Hong Kong
                           In Kilograms Unless Otherwise Indicated

                 1995            1996           1997            1998           1999

Heroin (#4)     411.0            309.1          202.2           209.4          287.5

Cannabis Herbal 1,052.4         8,822.7        1,002.1          585.1            26.3

Cocaine            1.8           13.9           31.3            167.7            12.0

Ice               15.4          46.8             73.6          232.7           102.1
                   -          +196 tab        +3,461 tab      +13 tab          +1,111tab

(tablets)         24           14,295           49,613          282              21,202
               +.2mg(mix)      +86.4 (mix)          -            -                   -

Ketamine not available             2            0.6g            1+.4g             2.07kg

      Once the heroin is packed for retail sales, the distributor relies on his “middlemen”
to sell to street level “salesmen.” According to Hing, a 33 year old male, served in both

          I worked for the distributor. I would get a big supply of heroin to sell to salesmen.
          I would pick up my supply at public parking lots, and put them in my trunk. I
          would also sell from the trunk of my car. I would sell for about HK$6,000 per
          ounce. I also sold to users. I sold about 20 grams everyday. [TG11].

        Those who work directly at the street level (either for a salesman or middleman)
believe the profits and benefits are worth the risk of detection. Moreover, they develop
strategies for selling. They also note, however, that this type of job is temporary and short
lived. Bing‟s description illustrates the basic retail process and strategy.

          [R]: Yes, I sold heroin for about two months, because I was in need of money at
          that time. By selling heroin, I could earn quite a large sum of money and I also
          got free heroin. So I did it, even though I knew that I would be sent to prison
          again. At the time, I could sell 60 to 70 fishball packets each day. One tablet was
          HK$200. For every tablet I sold, I could get back HK$30 as commission, so I
          could earn nearly HK$2,000 per day. Besides, I would get HK$4000 of heroin to

       take. It was very good business but quite dangerous as the police would get the
       news very quickly. I sold in the street.

       [I]:   Can you describe how your boss distributed the heroin?

       [R]: First of all, I would go to find my boss to get the drugs. Normally I would go
       out at 6:00 a.m. everyday with the goods and keep them on some part of my body,
       and come back at about 9:00 p.m.

       [I]: Did you have any strategies for selling?

       [R]: My boss regarded me as one of his followers, however, I had some followers
       too, just in case I could not do the business myself, so I would have some people
       to help me to sell the drugs. I would give them some benefits such as free drugs in
       exchange. Besides I would also have some of them check to see whether the
       police were nearby.

       [I]: How did you find followers to sell for you?

       [R]: Actually they were drug users too.

       [I]: Can you describe a typical deal from purchase to final sale?

       [R]: When I first started, I had to find customers. I would first give the customer
       confidence by asking my friends to introduce me to his friends and ask them if
       they wanted to buy goods from me. So the first few times, I would sell the higher
       quality drugs to them to give them confidence but of course, after a few times, the
       quality would be a bit lower because I would mix some substances to it. You have
       to get the customers confidence first. I didn‟t get into trouble because normally I
       would be in charge of taking the money and my followers would give the goods
       to the buyers. In this case, I wouldn‟t get into great trouble even if I was caught.

       [I]: Did you ever have problems with clients?

       [R]: The problem was sometimes they didn‟t have enough money to buy heroin,
       and then I had to decide whether I should give him the goods first and collect the
       money later. Some customers would give me back the money but some wouldn‟t.
       It was all totally based on trust. [TG06]

        The police were unable to provide details on the process of moving ice from the
wholesale to the retail level. At the wholesale level, it is likely given details of police
arrests (as reported in the press) and interviews with officers, that some of the groups
trafficking in heroin are the same as with ice. Beyond this level, it appears that ice is
distributed locally by a distinct group not necessarily connected to heroin distribution.

         While the main method for moving ice into Hong Kong is essentially the same as
for heroin, police and users confirm that ice is distributed quite differently compared to
heroin. While users generally go to their dealer for heroin and purchase in public open
areas, ice dealers normally go to the user and transactions are done in private settings,
usually someone‟s flat. Users frequently buy as a group which is not surprising given that
it is often used in a group setting (see section 2). We were able to locate and interview
one female low level retail dealer of ice. Her main supplier was her kai yea (godfather,

she ran away from home), her boyfriend and her “blood” brother. Research on the role of
females in retail sales of ice on the West Coast of the U.S. suggest that this case is not
atypical (Morgan and Joe 1996).

       I sold ice and actually earned some money. There are very few females who sell
       ice. Most of them work as “little flight” (transport small quantities). My boyfriend
       was selling ice and he used to provide me with my own use so I didn‟t have to
       buy any. Then I asked him to give me more and he suspected that I was selling.
       Every time I went to sell ice, he‟d scold me, and say, „you will be arrested one
       day!‟ Then I shouted back the same, and now he really has been arrested. I‟m sure
       he will go to Hei Ling Chau (compulsory drug addiction treatment center).

       After my boyfriend got arrested, I used to get my supply from his friend, but then
       I got arrested and I didn‟t want to get him into trouble. I got arrested after the
       police stopped and searched me. I had some leftover ice wrapped in tin foil and it
       was accidentally in the papers I put in my bag. After they found the ice, I had to
       have a urine test. I got two years on probation. So after this, I bought from my kai
       yea who was the ex-partner of my boyfriend in the ice business. I used to get
       them to give me four to five packets and said they were for my own use but my
       boyfriend and then my kai yea both knew that I was selling. I would sell it to my
       blood brothers or friends in the discos. They would introduce their friends to buy
       like my blood brother‟s girl friend‟s friends. If I don‟t know them, I sell it to them
       at HK$200 per packet. If we are close, HK$150 is okay. I didn‟t need to buy it, so
       I could sell it cheap. But not always. Sometimes if I know that he/she needs it
       urgently, I would say, „I didn‟t get enough, but if I find it for you, it may cost
       HK$600 per packet.” Sometimes when they really need it, I would charge them
       more. They will buy it if they need it. Some people must get it once they need it.
       For example, PR girls in the nightclubs don‟t care about the money. So I charge
       different people different prices.

      Seizures of cannabis are sometimes in conjunction with other drugs like heroin or
ice. Despite cannabis‟ steady popularity over the last five years, little information was
available on selling. We were able to locate only one seller of cannabis. He reported that
he used to sell cannabis for a “big dealer,” with the arrangement that he would be given
½ kilogram of cannbis. The profit from sales was HK$20,000 of which one half or
HK$10,000 would be returned to the “big dealer.” Ming then began selling ketamine, but
this time, buying from the “big dealer.” For ketamine, he reports buying ½ ounce for
HK$1,400 (equivalent to 50 packets). He sold the 50 packets in one evening at a cost of
HK$100, thereby making a profit of HK$3,600.

        The police indicate that the majority of MDMA imported for local consumption is
manufactured in China and brought into Hong Kong via ship, speed boats (dai fei)
walked across the border. It is not clear who the principal stakeholders are nor whether
they are connected or related to syndicates dealing in heroin, ice or cannabis. However,
some police believe that traffickers at the wholesale and retail level are shifting to dealing
in ecstasy and ketamine as these drugs are associated with less severe sanctions and
generate better profits (see commodity diversification section below). Given the stability
of the heroin scene over the last several years, it is likely that ecstasy and ketamine have
resulted in a diversification rather than a substitution or replacement for heroin. There has
been, for a long period, a consistent and stable demand for heroin. Users and police both
indicate that the quality of MDMA tablets are known by their distinctive designer mark
(P and CU are ranked as very good). Although the Government Laboratory is unable to

provide detailed analysis of content of seizures, adulterants have included amphetamine,
methamphetamine, methaqualone, ketamine, phenobarbitone, and caffeine.

                                     Credit Modalities
     According to our interviews with law enforcement and narcotics officials, wholesale
transactions and relationships for drug supplies into Hong Kong are based on cash only
with a group of stakeholders buying a share of a consignment.

                     Market Visibility, Concentration and Mobility
        The majority of interviewed heroin users report having sold heroin for short
periods of time. The principal motivation was twofold: 1) to make a profit from the
amount purchased and 2) to obtain one‟s own supply for a minimal cost (sometimes
“free” if carrying for others).

       Usually I sell about one gram to each user. If I buy a big packet for HK$1,000
       and divide it into many small packets, after selling all of them, I can get around
       HK$3,000. [TG10]

      At the street level, heroin dealing can be a relatively risky enterprise because it is
normally conducted in open public places, especially urban parks and near methadone
clinics. Users indicate that one can purchase heroin nearly everywhere in Hong Kong,
from coffee shops, public parks, game centers, public estates, fast food restaurants, and
even in front of convenience stores (e.g., 7-11 sotre). Parks are noted for the abundance
of trees which provide natural shelter, a lot of entrance and escape routes, and the high
level of activity. The purchase is sometimes made directly with drug for cash exchange.
Gigi notes that she often called her dealer and meets him in a public area, “usually we
make the transaction under a staircase [usually in a public housing estate] or in the street,
it‟s very easy, I just give the dealer the money and he gives me the drug” [TG21].

       Because of the risks, heroin users are normally involved in selling on the street.
They adopt a number of strategies regarding selling. Field observations of several public
parks and users‟ interviews indicate that one of the most common methods is to store a
quantity of straws in the mouth, and while one person collects the money and walks away,
another person delivers by passing the straw.

       The strategy that is used most now is putting the packed and sealed straws under
       your tongue, and if you meet the police, then you swallow it. And I try not to
       carry too much with me because if you meet the police and they find it on you, if
       the amount doesn‟t exceed a certain amount, then it‟s not seen as seriously.

     A variation of this method entails a delivery whereby the packet is hidden
somewhere nearby, and once the user has paid, he/she is told where to pick it up.
Bicycles are used to pass messages and for deliveries. SIM cards with no registration are
used to inform messengers of buys and deliveries. These cards make it difficult, if not
impossible, for the police to trace calls. There are numerous locations, on window ledges,
atop a gate, underneath or on the side of the rubbish bins, and inside a box of chocolates
which are stacked amongst a large number of boxes. The possibilities are endless. Some
heroin users rely on a variety of methods to obtain their supply. Ida finds buying in the
privacy of a flat as an efficient method but notes that this is also associated with the risk

of victimization. She also reports that public venues afford added protection compared to
buying in a public park. Ida purchases her heroin in another way:

       Sometimes I just go directly to a flat to buy it. I don‟t need to call, I just go there
       directly. Yes, I was afraid of them [the dealers] when I went to the flat. I worried
       what they would do to me because I went there alone. There are many methods I
       use. Sometimes, I call the dealer and meet him some place and do the transaction.
       Like I meet him sometimes in Mongkok [extremely busy and dense area], I give
       him the money and he gives me the heroin. Normally I meet him at a bus stop or
       in front of the cinema. Even if there are many people there, it doesn‟t make any
       difference, in fact, its better that more people are there so it‟s less noticeable. If
       the dealer is caught, I am not that worried as long as it‟s not in my hands. [TG20]

      Another strategy for selling heroin is the “takeaway shop.” This fixed location
strategy is usually operated by a distributor who employs several “keepers.” The
distributor will have several shops in and around the district. The keepers work in a.m.
and p.m. shifts, and sell packets through a slot of the door of a rented flat (e.g., operating
similar to the counter at a bank). Normally, the flat is well guarded with “protectors.”
Keepers (who are usually users themselves) are paid HK$500 and one packet of heroin
for a day‟s work. Couriers, who are sometimes but not always users (sometimes
teenagers), transport 1 ounce of heroin to the store as needed, and are paid HK$1,000 for
carrying it. One shop can sell 2 to 3 ounces per day. Police estimate that the average
intake of one shop is about HK$32,400. According to the police, these shops, once
identified, are easy targets for detection as was the case in Yau Ma Tei in the last six
months. According to officers, once the takeaway shop was closed down, the “shop
owner” redesigned his fixed location strategy such that two doors were set up to act as a
buffer zone and to better screen the arrival of customers and avoid police detection (e.g.,
more time to eliminate the supply in the event of a police raid). These shops, however,
must constantly relocate in order to avoid police intervention.

      Divans have also witnessed a re-emergence after having disappeared over the last
two decades. In 1999, the police identified 20 divans operating in Hong Kong. The
majority of the divans targeted by the police have been in Kowloon West (7) and Hong
Kong Island (10). According to police investigations, contemporary divans are
distinguished by the following characteristics:

          Operators providing new and clean needles
          Use of observational devices to verify potential customers from the police and
           use of iron gates and second doors to delay police intervention.
          Location on first or second floor of low rent and old premises so that
           operators can easily observe street activity.
          Use of drug users to manage the divan.
          Only known and regular customers were allowed to consume on the premises.
           (Police arrested over 20 at one divan at one time).
          Small quantities are kept on the premises, suggesting a nearby drugstore or
           readily available supplier. (Hong Kong Police 1999:4).

        According to the Hong Kong Police‟s Narcotics Bureau, there are a number of
reasons that may account for the emergence of divans. Police conduct routine checks of
sales areas, particularly in parks. This is done by regular patrolling, surveillance, and
undercover operations. Accordingly, operators have found that divans supplement the
market by offering an efficient and safehaven for buying and consuming. The user no

longer has to carry his/her equipment nor hang about on the street waiting for salesmen
or deliveries. Operators also recognize that undercover officers will not consume if they
have gained entry, and consequently, divans offer a safer and better protected venue for
selling. Moreover the employment of users as keepers of the divans provides better
protection for the operator as he/she does not have to have any presence on the scene.
The main disadvantage, however, is clear; a fixed location can be easily identified by
police through informants and surveillance.

    Users and police interviews confirm that ice is normally sold by private arrangement.
Unlike heroin, ice is typically delivered to the customer. Ping describes the process
commonly expressed by the users interviewed for this study:

       We just make a phone call and they deliver to us. They delivered it to my friend‟s
       house. Sometimes, they deliver it at the ground floor of the apartment building.
       We only have a phone number. You call, they bring it, you pay. Normally, the
       deal takes place in the morning around 10:00 a.m. [TG05]

     Cannabis sales often take place in amusement centers where young people tend to
frequent after school and in the evenings. The method used is typically a drug for cash
exchange. Users also report calling their dealer by phone and meeting in a public place
for an exchange. The main method for dealing cocaine is by telephone and meeting in a
private place.

                Commodity Diversification and Substitution Effects
     The emergence of MDMA and ketamine are the most significant changes in the
supply and marketing of drugs in Hong Kong. This is due to a variety of factors ranging
from the growing popularity of dance music (although clearly dance music does not
equate with X and K use) and public perceptions that these are neither addictive nor
dangerous drugs. These issues are described in detail in section 2. In terms of the
emergence of a market, however, the MDMA and ketamine market are distinctive from
other drugs.

         Over the last two years, Hong Kong has witnessed the emergence of dance clubs
or fing tao bars (literally head shaking clubs). These are distinct from organized rave
parties with promoters renting warehouses. Instead, fing tao bars are often established
and licensed karaoke clubs (popular in the mid-1990s, but not associated with drug use)
or tea dance clubs (designed for businessmen and office workers) until around 11:00 p.m.
or 12:00 a.m at which time, they are converted into smoke filled (machine generated)
dance floors for “shaking one‟s head” to the dance music. Dance clubs typically contain
at least a few private rooms for rent so that groups can enjoy the club in a semi-private
setting (easy for consuming). Tables near the dance floor can also be reserved and
“rented” for large groups. Importantly, there have also been a number of new clubs, some
with substantial investments of over HK$10 million, which have opened for rave dancing
like the Pink Club in Chai Wan (North End of Hong Kong Island) and the “348” in Tsim
Sha Tsui (Kowloon West District). Clubs vary in size with smaller ones having a capacity
of about 200 to larger ones having a capacity for approximately 1,200 dance goers. These
dance clubs (also sometimes referred to as “discos”) are found principally in Tsim Sha
Tui and Wan Chai; areas that have traditionally been centers for night time entertainment.
There are also a few discos in other areas, with the Jade 2000 having opened six months
ago in Tuen Mun with a population of 493,800, a district lying outside the urban center
(not accessible by underground rail, only car and bus. By bus, it takes about 1 to 1½

hours to get to the center of Hong Kong.)

        Some police report that the internet is serving as a method for the local purchase
of ecstasy and ketamine as several local websites have emerged like,,, and
raverworld.htm. Most users, however, report buying directly on the premises from retail
dealers, although transactions are sometimes conducted outside the club on the street to
avoid police detection within the club. In Tsim Sha Tsui, the district with the largest and
most diverse types of dance clubs (entrance fees from HK$150 to HK$500), retail dealers
normally work in one club. In Wan Chai, where there are fewer dance clubs, dealers
normally patrol from one club to another. According to police, lockers are sometimes
located within the premises, and are sometimes used to store retail dealer‟s supply. Sales
are essentially conducted in the club in open view with direct exchange of cash for the
tablets or powder packet. Sometimes users report picking up their purchase in the toilet.
Users who frequent a regular club are known to the agent and have no difficulty in
securing tablets for the evening. Potential customers who are not known by the agent are
usually approached and asked, “do you want to play?”

       Most of the fing tao is manufactured in China. There‟s an agent who sells at the
       disco. We don‟t worry about buying from the police because we can tell who they
       are from their behavior, the way they talk, police also walk slower and stare,
       looking around and walking. They also dress strangely…different from other
       people. When we go to the disco, we usually get it from one agent because the
       whole group knows that person. We just approach him to buy the drug. He knows
       us and immediately gives it to us. We don‟t even have to say a word. It‟s all
       understood. [TG05]

        From a business point of view, the opening and operation of dance clubs makes
good financial sense. Why? Dance music and being part of the dance music scene is seen
as trendy and fashionable. Celebrities are often sited at these clubs (usually at the
invitation of the managers to attract patrons). Entrance fees from HK$150 to HK$500
provide guaranteed revenue. Water and drinks are another sure source of revenue with
bottled water priced at HK$50 to HK$150 and beer priced at HK$50. Given that a good
percentage of the dance goers are using MDMA and ketamine, revenue from
refreshments are also guaranteed. There are a stable supply of customers. If we take an
average entrance fee of HK$350 and an attendance of 300 people at a small to medium
sized club, entrance fees alone on one night would total HK$105,000 (US$13,461). Two
bottles of water for 300 people at a price of HK$50 per bottle adds another HK$30,000
(US$3,846) to an evening‟s revenue, bringing at a minimum, the total to HK$135,000
(US$17,307). If this conservative estimate of HK$135,000 for one evening is considered
over one month, the profits from one disco are an estimated HK$2,835,000 (US$363,461,
estimate is based on 21 days to allow for ladies nights, etc.).

        According to police and users, triad groups operate the vast majority of fing tao
bars in the following manner. Managers are typically associated with a particular triad
group, and in some cases, but not always, may be one of the “investors” in the club. The
“investors” themselves may include a collection of legitimate and triad businessmen. A
legitimate businessman is often used to secure the license for the premise, and is paid for
this role. Among the most important staff of the manager are the doormen/bouncers who
belong to a security group (with the same triad affiliation as the manager usually) that
normally provide protection for several clubs on one street or area (territory). The
bouncers are employed as staff and are given either a wage or a one off payment each

month (amounts are unknown). The bouncers are accountable to their “dai lo” (leader
who also gets a “fee”). In the event of trouble, the bouncers on site call for assistance as
their triad group provides “protection.”

         Each district has its own X and K distributors but it is unclear at this point
whether the distributor for one district also supplies for other districts. The police believe
that there are one to two main distributors for the Wan Chai area. (This information was
unknown in the Tsim Sha Tsui area). The MDMA and ketamine distributors are typically
also triad affiliated. In Wan Chai, police believe that the distributor sells to a number of
retailers who supply and deal directly in the protected clubs. The retail sellers in this area,
either pay off the security staff or have the same triad alliance as the club, and through
this connection circulate among the different clubs. The police indicate that retail sellers
are “individual sellers”. There is no evidence to date to suggest that they are under the
control of any group, however, sellers were typically affiliated to a particular triad.

        In Tsim Sha Tsui, there also appears to be a “fluid” style of operations. Retail
sellers are affiliated with the security group (triad operated) of the disco, and either work
as a team or as independent sellers. Because sellers work and are accountable to the
security group, there is no competition for sales. Users confirm that the price for ecstasy
and ketamine do not fluctuate. Moreover, they do not report aggressive sales by sellers in
discos. The security group ensures that there is no internal competition as well as external
competition. Triad groups seem to have established territories (however, see section 3 on

        Retail level sellers obtain their supply through their triad affiliation (including
within the security group) and are able to generate an estimated 40% to 50% profit. Lai,
who is a 19 year old triad member and has been using ice and ecstasy for the last three
years reports:

       My dai lo (leader) would get a supply from his friends and I would get it from
       him. We would make and appointment to meet somewhere on the streets, and
       then he gave it to me, sometimes outside 7-11 stores. I would give him some
       money in return. I would get a supply about once or twice a month and paid
       HK$60 for each. I only sold the CU tablets because he only had that type. The
       quality of the drug was stable. I would charge HK$100 for one tablet and would
       buy 300 tablets. I‟d only sell to the people I know. Sometimes I‟d sell only a few,
       sometimes 10, depends on how many people I knew that were at the disco.
       Sometimes I might call my friends to see if they were going to the disco and if
       they wanted to buy. [T17]

        Another dealer, who after losing his professional designer job, started working in
the disco serving as security and bartending, while also selling as an individual.

       E and K go through about 4 to 5 turns. By the time it reaches us, it costs about
       HK$50 per pill for E. When packaging, usually use a spoon to divide it into small
       plastic bags. One ounce of K can be divided into around 100 packs. One ounce is
       about HK$3,000, after dividing into individual packs (around 100 packs for an
       ounce), it is sold HK$80 to HK$100 per pack. Fing tau is the same, HK$80 to
       HK$100. The E and K that contain a mixture are usually the cheaper ones
       (HK$80), sometimes mixed with crushed panadol. K is sometimes mixed with
       glass powder.

       Of course we deal mostly with triad members, but we don‟t really get a discount,
       it‟s a fixed retail price as in business. We sell it for a maximum of HK$100 for E
       and K so our profit is 50%. Sellers sell in the dark at the discos. Basically its
       someone we know and maybe their introduced friends, seldom would it be
       strangers asking for it. Basically we get youngsters from 15 to 25, although there
       are some older users, but usually the majority are teenagers. There‟s not much
       social class differences, all different classes come. Teenagers will not buy in very
       large amounts, they buy what they need for the night. But 20 somethings tend to
       buy more because they have the money to spend. It depends on the night, some
       nights I sell only 9 packs or pills but on another night I sell 50, it depends on what
       festivals are on, weekends are usually better for sales. [D01]

        The operation of these clubs operates in symbiosis with the X and K market. In
many ways, the fing tao scene has provided a new market for making money as the
profitable real estate boom (and its associated activities) has gone bust. According to one
experienced police source:

       For the triads, the operation of the club (management and protection) and the
       selling of drugs is like “joint venture” for making big easy money. The fing tao
       scene can attract hundreds of people with a small investment, under HK$2 million.
       Besides triads also like to have a place to gather, rest, take their girlfriends.
       Because of this backdrop, they invest in it themselves. They sometimes use
       “clean” or legitimate people to get the licensing. They need to pay the bouncers
       for protection, so why not simply make them “investors.” It‟s all about making

       Actually many of the investors tested out this idea of fing tao bars across the
       border in Shenzhen. This was about 6 to 12 months ago. They found it to be
       lucrative there with a lot of Hong Kong people going there because it was so
       cheap. The Public Security Bureau tried to clamp down a little, but has only been
       able to get them to close at 2:00 p.m. The investors realized they could make
       more profits if they brought it down to Hong Kong and that is now what we are
       seeing. They were testing the market over there and have taken advantage of
       youth culture.

     Importantly, the police note that the disco itself does not have an “investment” nor
operate the retail sale of X and K. While the “investors” and managers of the disco
generate revenue from entrance fees and refreshments, the security group affords
protection and generates revenue from the sale of drugs. Undoubtedly, however,
managers must be taking a percentage of the retail sales proceeds. In other words, the
dance club/drug enterprise does not exhibit a distinct and clear hierarchy but rather
represents a network of entrepreneurs with the same triad affiliation.

        The government has responded to the rising use of ecstasy and ketamine with
educational campaigns, formation of a psychotropic substance abuse subcommittee to
assess the problem, funded research, and has proposed legislation for stiffer penalties for
ketamine. GHB is still under consideration and being monitored. District level police
conduct weekly license checks of fing tao bars to keep pressure on the operators and
managers of these clubs.

        On 24 October 2000, the Narcotics Division also issued a code of practice for
party organizers to “encourage responsible management and lawful conduct at organized

„rave‟ type dance parties” (Narcotics Division 2000a) The code offers guidelines on
licensing requirements, security, drug warnings for rave goers, building safety,
environmental considerations and harm reduction strategies. Importantly, however, the
code of practice is directed at organized dance parties, not existing, permanent fing tao
bars. It is the latter which is the main and permanent venue for dancegoers, and are
generally operated and dominated by different triad groups.

         This issue is raised in the context of the opening of several large dance clubs with
differing experiences. The Pink Club, which opened on 31 August, is considered to be the
first permanent large scale dance music club (section 2 also contains details on this club).
One of the main investors is Didier Li, son of the chairman of the Hong Kong jockey
club. The club costs over HK$10 million to set up (including music sound system). Mr.
Li consulted the police and the district board on the development of this club, and
wanting to keep drugs and protection off the premises, hired the highly reputable
Jardine‟s security system. Mr. Li has encountered opposition from the district board of
Chai Wan, particularly since this is the first dance club in the area that has traditionally
been residential (in the last several years, a number of residential developments have
emerged in this district, turning sections of it into a middle class community). Mr. Li was
unable to secure an alcohol license on the opening night, and instead, held a by invitation
only party. There were an estimated 1,200 people in attendance. The police conducted a
check on opening night which resulted in 11 arrests for relatively small quantities of X, K
and cannabis. One of those arrested was the boyfriend of Pansy Ho, daughter of Hong
Kong tycoon Stanley Ho. Two months later, the club‟s attendance has dropped to less
than 100 and the Pink Club does not have its‟ alcohol license.

     By contrast, one of the bigger clubs in Tsim Sha Tsui recently had its official
opening, and was well attended by numerous local film and music stars. The Chinese
press reported the opening with a two page spread. The manager of the club is known to
have triad affiliations. It appears that the club‟s security group has similar affiliations.
Interestingly, the club received its‟ license without much debate. Other clubs recently
opened have had similar experiences. From these experiences, it seems clear that the one
of the main issues to be addressed in relation to the rising popularity of ecstasy and
ketamine is the venue and the operation of them. This is not to suggest, however, that
these dance clubs should be simply closed down, but attention must be given to the
symbiotic relationship between the dance club scene and the groups who dominate their

                   Economic Effects/Implications of Legal Framework
      Trafficking in dangerous drugs is assessed to be the criminal activity which
generates the most lucrative illegitimate proceeds in Hong Kong, according to the
summary of the FATF second round mutual evaluation. The summary further states that
traditionally drug trafficking has taken two forms, namely supply for the domestic market
and transhipment to other international markets. Hong Kong‟s financial system is, in
effect, ideal, having a low tax system, sophisticated banking facilities, and the absence of
currency and exchange controls. Like other international financial centers sharing these
traits, Hong Kong is susceptible to money laundering activities.

     Over the years, Hong Kong has developed legal and financial systems to counter
money laundering. Hong Kong enacted its first drug related money laundering legislation
in December 1989. A Police/Customs Joint Financial Intelligence Unit (JFIU) was
established to facilitate the reporting of suspicious money laundering activities by those
dealing with financial transactions and to coordinate the investigations of these

suspicious activities when warranted.

     Subsequently, the initial legislation, the Drug Trafficking (Recovery of Proceeds)
Ordinance (DT(ROP)Ord) has been amended on various occasions in the light of
experience. Also the Organized and Serious Crimes Ordinance (OSCO) extended the
money laundering offense from drug trafficking to the proceeds of all serious crime. This
law also has been extended to require moneychangers and remittance agents to maintain
records of transactions over a particular threshold.

     Generally speaking, the legislation in Hong Kong is considered sound and effective,
and provides a good legal framework for dealing with money laundering. The legislation
requires reports to the JFIU based on suspicion rather than based on a fixed threshold,
relying on those dealing with financial transactions who are legally obliged to make such
reports. A few large banks take these responsibilities seriously but others, such as insurers,
insurance agents, accountants, solicitors, and securities participants do not, according to
the FATF.

     Hong Kong undoubtedly leads the field in Asia with its legislation and enforcement,
and is comparable with the leaders worldwide but that is not to say that there are no areas
of concern. A particular problem seems to exist with few being prosecuted for money
laundering offenses under the DT(ROP) Ord with there only being a total of six cases
prosecuted in the past five years. The same difficulties are not experienced in other
serious criminal cases, and there have been 55 prosecutions over the same period under

      The law is more effective in dealing with restraint orders, confiscation orders and in
the actual payment of money to the Government. The amounts, however, are not
significant when compared to the amounts of money allegedly made from drug
trafficking. Just over HK$328 million (or US$42 million) has been paid to the
Government since the DT(ROP) Ord was first passed into law in 1989. Over HK$130
million was paid to the Government in one case alone in 1992.

     Of course, the profits of the drug business can be overstated and due note must be
taken of the costs of running the business and the high cost of the life-style of many in
the business. For many, they do not end up with much in the way of accumulated wealth
vulnerable to confiscation.

      Needless to say, experience has revealed weaknesses in the law and weaknesses in
its enforcement, and at the top of the list, must be concern at the small numbers of
prosecutions for money laundering. Another area, raised by law enforcers, that could
possibly develop into a problem is that legal fees are paid out of restrained assets.
Bearing in mind the level of integrity of some who are retained by drug syndicates to
defend those who get arrested, there is concern that this may prove to be a loophole and
that restrained funds may find their way back to the syndicate. Some involved in law
enforcement consider that there should be a requirement for compulsory reporting of
amounts of cash, over a stated threshold, crossing the border. The view that this may be
contrary to the Basic Law does not seem valid as it does not restrict the movement but
merely requires it to be reported. Some law enforcement officers also believe that
consideration should be given to civil confiscation of assets.

    Money laundering is invariably transnational in nature and with the rapid
development of technology, it is likely to become much more difficult to detect and

interdict. It is therefore to be hoped that Hong Kong will continue its enthusiasm for
ensuring that it remains in the forefront of efforts to tackle the problem and cooperate
internationally. It is hoped that Hong Kong will comply fully with the new UN
Convention on Transnational Crime to be launched in December.

      Also as a historical fact, Hong Kong has few extradition arrangements with
neighboring countries although Hong Kong has entered into some treaties since 1997
regarding extradition and mutual legal assistance. This is a complex area, even rendition
of wanted persons between Hong Kong and China is complex and sensitive. Some in the
legal profession feel that consideration should be given to Hong Kong taking the same
line as in many countries, including China, and claim jurisdiction over its “permanent
residents” worldwide for a limited range of offenses. This would mean that they could
stand trial in Hong Kong for offenses committed overseas rather than remain beyond the
reach of the law.

2. Demand
Price Elasticity of Demand
        Consumption and Availability of Major Drugs
        Diagram 2-1 provides a summary of the rank order, availability and form of the
major drugs on the Hong Kong market from the users‟ point of view. For comparison
purposes, Tables 2-1 and 2-2 supply the latest user trends according to the government‟s
central registry of drug abuse.
Diagram 2-1
Major Drugs in Demand And Availability in the Hong Kong Market At Street Level Based on Users’ Perceptions

Drug            Available        Form          Colour               Rise/Decline        Associated With
#4 Heroin        Widely          Powder      Yellow, White,         Steady/Rising        “Old addicts”
                                             Black, Greenish

MDMA             Widely          Tablet       All colours                 Rising         Youth, Young adults,
                                             (Orange ranked best)                        Celebrities,Discos/Raves

Ketamine         Widely          Powder         Red, White                Rising          Youth, Young adults,

Cough “Water”    Widely          Liquid            --                     Steady            Youth

Cannabis         Moderate        Sticks          Brown                    Rising            Youth, Young adults
                                                                                            Wind down from

Ice             Moderate*        Crystal        Clear/White                  Rising/Declining       Construction,
                                 Sugar                                                      Bartenders, Drivers,
                                                                                            Hair Salons, Sex Workers

Cocaine          Low             Powder             White                 Declining             Expats
   Conflicting reports by users as to availability and rising/declining.

        Users, outreach workers, treatment staff, and law enforcement officials agree that
number 4 heroin (known as sei jai) is the primary drug of choice in Hong Kong, and is
the most widely available drug on the market. As Poon, a 32 year old male, who has used
heroin for the past 17 years states,

           Sei Jai is the most popular. It‟s also widely available. You can easily get it
           anytime of the day, even in the afternoon. You can get it in every district, and the
           price is not too expensive.

        Given its wide availability and relative cost, most users report that heroin
consumption is on the rise, although some believe it has remained constant over the last
several years. The Central Registry of Drug Abuse data suggest a decline in use among
younger users and a steady use trend among older users. Among all reported individuals
(includes new and previously reported users) under the age of 21, heroin abuse declined
from 1995 (72.5%) to 1999 (49.1%), but comparatively, heroin still represented the most
prevalent drug used among those reported young persons. Among all reported individuals
21 years old and over, heroin abuse remained steady from 1995 (93.0%) to 1999 (91.8%).
Table 2-1 details the proportion of all persons reported to the government‟s central
registry of drug abuse by type of drug and by age group. These figures include all
persons who come to the attention of agencies dealing with drug use (e.g., police, social
work, NGO‟s, correctional services, etc.).

Table 2-1
Reported Individuals by Age and Type of Drug Abused
                        1995      1996       1997      1998    1999       2000
                                                                        (1st Half)
                             %       %         %        %        %          %
Under 21
Heroin                      72.5    66.7      64.3      58.4    49.1      26.1
Opium                          *     -          -          -     -         -
Morphine                       *     -          -          -     -         0.1
Physeptone/Methadone        0.4     0.5       0.5        0.2    0.3        0.1
Other narcotic analgesics   0.2      *          -          -     -         -
Amphetamines                1.8     7.9       15.8      19.4    29.2       58.1
    MDMA                       -     *        1.7       2.0     13.1       51.5
    Methylamphetamine       1.5     7.6       14.4      17.3    17.3       10.4
Cocaine                        *    0.1       0.1       0.1     0.3         0.2
Barbituates                    *     -          -        -       -          -
Methaqualone                0.1     0.5       0.2        *      0.1         0.5
Cannabis                    20.2    21.0      21.8     26.6     30.1       22.6
Ketamine                       -     -          -        -      0.6        20.5
Brotizolam                  0.1      -          -        -       -          -
Diazepam                    0.1      -        0.2       0.2     2.0         2.5
Flunitrazepam               4.8     4.1       1.6       0.7     0.8         0.5
Triazolam                   1.8     1.6       2.2       1.8     1.5         1.1
Midazolam                   0.3     0.3       0.4       0.2     0.1         0.2
Cough Medicine              9.7     7.8       7.4       5.2     4.5         2.9
Organic Solvents            1.5     4.7       4.8       4.3     4.5         2.6

# of Persons With
Type of Drug Reported 3,581        3,362     2,886     2,550   2,217       1,846

Over 21
Heroin                   93.0       90.8     91.4      91.7     91.8        91.2
Opium                     0.4        0.4      0.3      0.2      0.4         0.3
Morphine                  0.1         *       *         *        -           *
Physeptone/Methadone      1.3        1.2      1.1      0.7      0.7         0.4
Other narcotic analgesics *           *       *         *        -          0.1
Amphetamines              0.7        1.9      3.3      4.0      5.4         5.3
   MDMA                     -         *       0.1      0.1      0.4         1.4
   Methylamphetamine 0.7             1.8      3.1      3.8      4.9         3.8
Cocaine                   0.1        0.1      0.1      0.1      0.1         0.1
Barbituates                 *         *         -       -        -            -
Methaqualone              0.1        0.1      0.1      0.1      0.1         0.1
Cannabis                  4.8        5.8      5.1      5.5      4.7         4.1
Ketamine                   -          -         -       -       0.1         0.9
Brotizolam                  -         *         -       -        *            -
Diazepam                   *          *       0.2      0.1      0.2         0.1
Flunitrazepam             2.4        3.2      5.7      5.4      6.1         5.0
Midazolam                 0.3        0.4      1.3      1.4      1.1         1.3
Cough Medicine              1.2      2.0      1.8      1.1      1.4         1.3
Organic Solvents            *           *        *     0.1      0.1         0.2

# of Persons With
Type of Drug Reported 14,425        15,265   13,609   13,195   12,982       7,947

                                   Table 2-1 Continued
                   Reported Individuals by Age and Type of Drug Abused

                            1995      1996           1997         1998          1999           2000
                             %         %              %            %              %              %

All Ages
Heroin                      89.0             86.5          86.6          86.3           85.5
Opium                       0.3       0.4            0.2          0.1            0.3            0.2
Morphine                    *          *              *           *                 -           *
Physeptone/Methadone        1.1       1.0            1.0          0.6            0.6            0.3
Other narcotic analgesics   0.1        *              *           *               -              *
Amphetamines                0.9       3.0            5.5          6.5            8.9           15.2
    MDMA                      -        *             0.4          0.4            2.3           10.9
    Methylamphetamine       0.8       2.8            5.1          6.0            6.7            5.0
Cocaine                     0.1       0.1            0.1          0.1            0.1            0.2
Barbituates                   *        *              -             -              -              -
Methaqualone                0.1       0.2            0.1          0.1            0.1            0.2
Cannabis                    7.9       8.5            8.0          8.9            8.4            7.6
Ketamine                     -         -              -             -            0.2            4.6
Brotizolam                    *        *              -             -              *              -
Diazepam                     *         *             0.2          0.2            0.5            0.6
Flunitrazepam               1.7       1.6            0.8          0.3            0.4            0.3
Triazolam                   2.2       2.9            5.1          4.8            5.5            4.2
Midazolam                   0.3       0.4            1.2          1.2            0.9            1.1
Cough Medicine              2.9       3.1            2.7          1.8            1.9            1.6
Organic Solvents            0.3       0.9            0.8          0.8            0.8            0.6

# of Persons With
Type of Drug Reported 18,006       18,627           16,495        15,745        15,199     9,793

* less than 0.05
- zero

Source: Central Registry of Drug Abuse, Special Request for 2000

         Although heroin use accounts for nearly half of all reported cases, there are
important changes in the drugs of choice among the younger population, noted by official
statistics and users alike. The registry data indicate that there has been a significant
decline in the number of newly reported young users taking heroin over the last five years
(Table 2-2). Over the last five years, the percentage of newly reported heroin users under
21 years of age dropped by over one-third. As noted below, this decline has been
replaced by a corresponding rise in amphetamine use. By contrast, among those 21 years
and over, the annual percentage of newly reported users who take heroin has remained
relatively constant over the last five years.

Table 2-2
              Newly Reported Persons by Age by Type of Drug Abused*
               1995       1996       1997       1998         1999                    2000
                                                                                    1st half
              %               %           %            %               %                %
Under 21
Heroin        63.3           51.3        48.0        39.0            29.4             13.9
Amphetamines 1.9               9.1       20.7        24.7            36.6             66.2
   MDMA       -                0.1         2.3        3.6            19.1             60.1
   Ice        1.5              8.7      1 8.5        21.1            18.8              9.7
Cocaine       -                -           -           -              0.2              0.3
Cannabis    27.6             29.3       31.2         39.8            39.6             23.0
Cough Med 10.7                 8.4       8.4          5.1             5.2              2.2
Ketamine      -                -           -           -              1.1             24.5
Total       1772             1616       1332        1210             1119             909

21 and Over
Heroin       61.9             55.1       56.5          58.1          58.7             54.8
Amphetamines 2.9               7.5       11.4                 12.0           14.6
    MDMA        -              0.2       0.9            0.4           2.4            9.5
    Ice       2.7              7.0       10.3          10.8          12.3            6.3
Cocaine       0.5              0.5       0.3            0.5           0.3            0.1
Cannabis    28.5              29.3       27.0          28.4          22.8            21.5
Cough Med     5.6              9.4       7.8            4.2           5.2            3.4
Ketamine      -                -          -              -            0.3             6.8
Total       1565             1917       1479           1371          1241            702

* Multiple answers are possible, and therefore, totals may not equal 100%.

Source: Central Registry of Drug Abuse 2000

    According to some of our interviews with heroin users and treatment staff, heroin is
sometimes combined with Midazolam to enhance and strengthen the effects. Because
Midazolam is inexpensive HK$10 (US$1.20) each, and the varying quality of heroin, the
mixture of the two provides a “better high.”

         The most significant change in the last five years then, noted by all sources of
data, has been the growth in the use of amphetamine type stimulants (ATS), specifically
MDMA (locally known as fing tao, X, E-jai), ketamine (locally known as K or K-jai),
and ice (locally known as Bing). This trend in many ways is similar to those experienced
elsewhere in Asia and in many Western countries. The Government has expressed grave
concern about the growing use of MDMA and ketamine, and the rising number of
fatalities associated with these “new drugs” in Hong Kong. The Narcotics Division noted
in a recent press release on 27 September 2000:

                In the past year, there were a total of 15 death cases involving „ecstasy‟
        and four cases involving ketamine. Fatal cases involving „ecstasy‟ include
        homicide cases involving gang fights, administering of poison, rape, „fell from
        height‟ and traffic accident… The fatal cases involving ketamine include collapse,
        fell from height, traffic accident and suicide (carbon monoxide poisoning).

         Based on our interviews with users, outreach workers, and law enforcement
officials, there are several reasons to account for the growing popularity of MDMA and
ketamine. First, users perceive MDMA to have few immediate side-effects (other than
exhaustion, insomnia, and biting of teeth) and no long term consequences (health or
otherwise), even with the knowledge that they are not consuming “pure” MDMA. From
their standpoint, its‟ main advantage is that it is “fun” and it is not addictive. It simply
makes them “happy.” According to Peter,

               The advantage of ecstasy is that you don‟t feel there is too much
       dependency. After you take it, you feel very energetic and you feel good [his
       emphasis]… I like the feeling… It‟s power to bring you happiness, to dance and
       the feeling of togetherness. From a different angle, you feel you are eased to
       yourself and open to yourself – that kind of feeling. That you can dance, that you
       have energy. I don‟t like the fact that you will be worn out the next day, its side
       effect of biting your teeth and the pain. [NT06]

        Users also report that MDMA not only gives them a source of energy for dancing,
but also gives them a sense of confidence to interact with others. Phil, a 30 year old,
“party based” user describes his experiences:

               Before you take it, you feel alien in the party. You think that you don‟t
       belong to the group or the place. You don‟t feel involved in it. After you take it,
       you know that others have taken the drug also, and then you feel you belong to
       that group. You become more involved… I am more willing to approach others,
       to play with them, even those I don‟t know. This makes me like the place and the
       party. It keeps my spirit young. [NT05]

        There are a variety of “user groups” who attend “discos” or “fing tao” bars
ranging from “golden hair youth” (originally associated with the party scene, and as the
rebellious unemployed lower and working class youth, but subsequently has become
somewhat of a more general youth culture symbol) to hair stylists, retail shopping
assistants, housewives, university students, and young professionals.

        Females, from 18 onward into the 30s, are also frequenting dance clubs. Among
those young women who start using MDMA and ketamine, the main motivations are to
have a good time with relatively few expenses. Our female respondents indicate that they
rarely, and in some cases, never pay for MDMA, ketamine or cannabis (to come down).
Typically, they attend with a large group of friends, and the tablets are halved and shared.
In the case of ketamine, a baggie of powder is normally shared. The expense of the drugs
is usually picked up by one or more of the males in the group. Outreach workers confirm
this emerging trend of young women:

                The main thing is girls don‟t need to spend anything and they can have
       drugs and play. In the past mothers could stop them from using heroin by cutting
       their finance. However, today, girls don‟t really need money. They just need
       money for transportation and the males bring them into the disco for free. Even if
       they can‟t find any guys to bring them in, all they have to do is stand and wait
       outside the disco and someone will bring them in. Also, the discos have a “ladies
       night” during the week and you can enter free and sometimes get a free drink.
       What‟s better than that? Little expense and a high level of entertainment.

        Middle class users tend to have more knowledge about the effects of MDMA and
ketamine through peers and the media (including the internet). Interestingly, several
respondents indicated that curiosity from the recent and extensive press coverage of these
drugs and the disco scene prompted their first use and visit to the scene. One of our
fieldworkers has conducted informal interviews with a group of middle class housewives,
who began frequenting discos and using ecstasy on the weekends, after reading about the
growing popularity of the local club culture. Moreover, while they had few reservations
about taking MDMA (believing it had few side effects), they were more reluctant to try
ketamine, having learned of its potential adverse effects particularly memory loss.
According to outreach workers‟ experiences, middle class users are “definitely more
serious…it is because they have much confidence in themselves. They think that since
they are well educated and know more about the drug, they can control themselves in
taking it. But actually its not the case.”

        A second reason for the increase in ecstasy and ketamine lies in their association
with a distinctive, fashionable and trendy social scene. These are characteristics of a
youthful and “hip” culture which are in complete contrast to heroin. Heroin use is
culturally understood to be part of the “older generation” (30s and over) and users are
seen as having “hit the bottom” when they move into heroin. From the users‟ point of
view then, club drugs like ecstasy and ketamine are not associated with the negative
identity or stigma of heroin users. In fact, as one outreach worker comments:

               Personally, I think the number of teenagers using heroin has begun to drop
       because for them, they feel using heroin is outdated and they don‟t want to appear
       to be dropping out of fashion. So when ecstasy and ice appeared, they didn‟t feel
       they were out of date, like heroin users, and they started using these “newer”

        A third factor accounting for this rise is users‟ awareness, however, vague, of the
legal consequences of MDMA and ketamine. Most users report that while the police
conduct routine license checks of fing tao bars and organized raves, few people are
arrested. In the event of unannounced license checks, consumers can simply dump their
supply on the floor, and if it is not in their possession, there is little the police can do,
except confiscate the dumped drugs. Some users report buying and using before entering
discos to lessen the potential for police intervention. However, our field observations
indicate that ecstasy and ketamine are openly used in some discos. In either case, users
who have either been arrested or have had friends arrested, are well aware that the
penalties are relatively lenient. One magistrate confirmed this point, saying, “I get at least
five of these cases every day, and all I can give them is a fine or community order. The
precedent was set before and there is a perception in the judiciary that these are not
harmful drugs.”

         One final reason for the increase in MDMA and ketamine‟s popularity is the
proliferation of venues for rave dancing. Organized dance parties surfaced in Hong Kong
in 1993, however, these were largely occasional events imported by the expatriate
community. According to police observations, the availability of MDMA increased at the
end of 1996. It is over the last two years that the dance party scene began to take hold,
and established itself in several different venues to attract a wider audience and choices
for consumers of music and fing tao. The number of organized dance parties began to
increase in frequency. Popular karaoke bars and tea-dancing clubs in several districts
seized upon the popularity of rave dancing, and began converting their establishments to
attract fing tao dancers. The connection of these clubs to organized crime is discussed in

the market clearing mechanisms section. Most recently, on 31 August 2000, the Pink
Club, which is the first “superclub” and permanent venue, opened for dance lovers. From
our interviews with users‟, it is clear that different types of venues attract different types
of user groups (e.g., social class, etc.).

          Ice or crystal methamphetamine use has risen in many Southeast Asian countries
throughout the 1990s, and continues to present problems in places like Thailand and
Japan. In Hong Kong, ice has had a somewhat puzzling development, especially in light
of its‟ close proximity to the manufacturing sites in southern China. Police reports
indicate that ice, in the form of powder and fine crystal, has been sold in small quantities
in Hong Kong since at least the early 1970s; the majority of ice seizures have been
shipments from China en route to Japan and the Philippines where demand has been high
(Hong Kong Police 1991). Ice use in Hong Kong in this “early period” was largely
among Filipino entertainers and musicians who found that the drug provided energy for
working late at night. During the 1980s and into the early 1990s, the consumption of ice
remained relatively low. Treatment workers, police seizures and some of our respondents
indicate that ice was sometimes mixed with heroin to make speedballs. This combination
is still found in Hong Kong, but treatment workers indicate that it is largely confined to
specific districts like the Tuen Mun area in the New Territories.

        Ice use has increased in the past five years but has not attained the problematic
level as in other countries. According to the disaggregated data for the central registry‟s
category of “amphetamines,” ice use has been on the rise since 1996. Among all newly
reported users, the increase in the number of young ice users more than doubled from
1996 to 1997 and then remained steady over the next two years. The proportion of newly
reported older users of ice of all drug users was comparatively lower than those under 21,
and remained constant at about 10 to 12 percent from 1997 to 1999. In the last six
months, however, the number of newly reported ice users has decreased. This downward
trend, particularly among young users may be related to the recent increase in MDMA
and ketamine use in this age group. The number of previously reported young persons
using ice grew steadily from 1996 to 1999 and declined slightly during the last six
months. The proportion of older, previously reported persons who used ice was lowest
among all groups and remained constant during the last five and one half years.

                                             Table 2-3
                       Percentage of Ice Users of All Reported Users By Age
                              1995     1996      1997     1998      1999           2000
                                                                                  (1st Half)
                                 %        %         %          %         %             %
       Newly Reported
       Ice Users < 21         1.5       8.7        18.5        21.1      18.8         9.7
       Total # Users         (1772)    (1616)    (1332)      (1210)      (1119)       (909)

       Ice Users > 21         2.7       7.0        10.3        10.8        12.3       6.3

       Total # Users          (1565)   (1917)    (1479)      (1371)      (1241)       (702)

       Previously Reported
       Ice Users < 21         1.4      6.6       10.8       13.9         15.8        11.1
       Total # Users       (1809)     (1746)    (1554)      (1340)       (1098)      (937)

       Ice Users > 21         0.4      1.0        2.2        3.0          4.1        3.6
       Total # Users     (12860)      (13348) (12130)       (11824)      (11741)      (7245)

       All Reported
       Ice User < 21        1.5        7.6        14.4       17.3         17.3       10.4
       Total # Users     (3581)       (3362)    (2886)      (2550)        (2217)      (1846)

       Ice Users > 21      0.7         1.8         3.1         3.8         4.9         3.8
       Total # Users     (14425)      (15265) (13609)       (13195)       (12982)     (7947)

       Source: Central Registry of Drug Abuse, Special Request

            When aggregating new and previously reported persons using ice, it becomes
clear that the consumption of ice is maturing with the user population. Among all
reported persons using ice, the proportion of younger users compared to older users was
initially lower in 1995 (35% compared to 65% respectively), but grew and became
roughly equivalent by 1997 (49.5% compared to 50.5% respectively). Since then, the
proportion of younger compared to older users of ice dropped and remained constant
over the last six months.

                                        Table 2-4
                            Reported Number of Ice Users By Age

                         1995        1996         1997          1998       1999        2000
                                                                                  (1st Half)
                          %            %           %                 %          %        %

       Under 21          35.4        48.3         49.5           47.0       37.7        38.9
       21 & Over         64.6        51.7         50.5           53.0       62.3        61.1
       All Ages         (147)       (530)         (839)         (938)      (1016)      (494)

       Source: Central Registry of Drug Abuse, Special Request 2000

          The most significant rise in ice use has been among females. The proportion of
females using ice among all females using drugs (regardless of the type of drug) who are
reported to the government‟s central registry of drug abuse has increased over the last
five years. In 1995, 1.6% of all reported female drug users were using ice, in 1996 the
proportion rose to 10.1% of all female reported drug users, in 1997 the proportion nearly
doubled to 19.5% of all female drug users, and in 1998, 23.9% of all reported female
drug users were using ice. The peak, thus far, is for 1999 with 26% of all reported female
drug users consuming ice (data not shown).

                                        Table 2-5*
                         Ice Users By Sex, Age, and Report Status
                  1995           1996         1997          1998                 1999
                    %             %             %            %                    %
       Newly Reported
       Under 21
       Male         59.3          66.4          60.3         59.6                 51.4
       Female       40.7          33.6        39.6          40.4                 48.5
       Total        (27)         (140)        (247)         (255)                (210)

       21 & Over
       Male             72.1          77.6         76.5           74.3            73.9
       Female           27.9          22.4         23.5           25.7            26.1
       Total            (43)          (134)       (153)          (148)           (153)

       Previously Reported
       Under 21
       Male           72.0            67.2         70.2             64.5         65.9
       Female         28.0            32.8         29.8             35.5         34.1
       Total          (25)            (116)       (168)             (186)        (173)

       21 & Over
       Male             84.6         82.1          80.4             81.1          79.3
       Female           15.4         17.9          19.6             18.9          20.6
       Total            (52)        (140)         (271)             (349)        (480)

       Source: Central Registry of Drug Abuse, Special Request, 2000

         Table 2-5 provides a breakdown of the sex and age characteristics of ice users and
underscores a salient difference between users of this drug compared to other drugs. Over
the last five years, females have consistently represented between 11% and 13% of all
reported drug users. Among all newly reported drug users, females represent a slightly
higher but still consistent 19% to 22 percent. However, the proportion of females using
ice compared to males consuming ice is significantly higher than for the overall drug
using population. In particular, the ratio of females to males is approximately 1:3 among
newly reported users (all ages) in 1995. By 1997, however, females under 21 represented
40% of all newly reported ice users. By 1999, females under 21 represented nearly
one-half of all newly reported ice users. By contrast, the proportion of older female users
(21 or over) dropped, and by 1999, they represented slightly more than one-fourth of all
newly reported ice users. In 1998, among those under 16, there were more female ice
users (n=39) compared to the male counterparts (n=24) (data not shown).

         It is unclear what direction ice use is moving given outreach workers, treatment
staff, and users observations. Among users there is some disagreement as to the
availability of ice and whether its use is on the increase or not. All but one of the ice
users interviewed for this study report that ice remains popular among the “younger
generation.” Importantly, they note that because the process of using ice requires time
and equipment, most ice use takes place in private or semi-private settings. Discos and
rave parties are not conducive to ice use and consequently MDMA and ketamine are the
preferred drugs in those settings. Because ice use is conducted principally in private

settings (unlike heroin, ecstasy and ketamine), it may well be that the perception of its
use is unclear among non ice-users, outreach workers and the police. Police have
indicated that there are comparatively few arrests made for possession of ice for use. This
may not necessarily be an indicator of a decline but of the privacy with which this drug is
consumed. Several officers stated that a small group of users rent a room at a “guest
house” for one to three days to consume. There are numerous inexpensive guests houses
in the busy commercial districts of Hong Kong and are designed for short term stays.

        Among ice users, the motivations to use are related to the energy producing effect
of the drug.

                I enjoy the process we take in using ice together rather than just the high
       itself. We talk to each other and feel very close. Our “ice gathering” last time,
       lasted over 10 hours. Four people used one gram for over 10 hours. After I took
       heroin, I lost all the normal social life, I dared not to speak out. I was very silent
       and had no friends, but after ice, I got a lot of things to talk about. [T04]

        Users also remark that the drug has an ability to enhance their sociability and
therefore, self esteem. It is not, however, a “party drug” in the way MDMA and ketamine
are used. The effect of sociability and talkativeness is particularly important among ice
users who also use heroin. Ah Wing has been using heroin for the past 14 years, and ice
for the past 7 years. He does not use ice and heroin together, but explains that the
motivations for using the two drugs differ, depending on what he needs to accomplish.

               Heroin helps to forget all my troubles. You feel there is no trouble and
       you can just go to sleep. Heroin can help you to have a good sleep. But your self
       esteem and self confidence will be totally lost after taking heroin. You just want
       to sleep and not use your brain to think. Heroin is very different, opposite to ice.
       Heroin can make you feel depressed and no energy. You can‟t concentrate to
       work and think… You can concentrate to do your work after taking ice. You can
       work very hard. I cleaned my house for 13 hours non-stop after I took ice. To be
       honest, I don‟t like the feeling of ice. The real reason I continue using it is
       because I need to be very concentrated when I commit crime, and ice can make
       me concentrate on doing one thing. I need to be very alert when I am doing a
       burglary. I take it before I do snatchings and pickpocketing. I feel full of energy
       and no one can run faster than me. Sometimes, I mixed ice and midazolam, and I
       felt even braver and more violent. Also, when I felt I was too down and my self
       esteem was too low due to heroin taking, I would use ice to rescue it.

        In a few cases, users have tried to quit heroin (their main drug of choice) by
switching to ice. They note, however, that this method for quitting heroin has not
successful because they also found ice addictive, and perhaps, most importantly,
produced unwanted effects completely counter to those related to heroin. Heroin users
who either switch to ice or use ice alternatively with heroin find the insomnia associated
with ice to be the most problematic aspect of the drug.

         A few users (one ice and three non-ice users) believe that its‟ declining popularity
is related to ice “not so abundant supply,” and consequently, the need to find direct
suppliers. Because of its lack of availability, users believe the price is too expensive,
particularly in light of growing awareness of the negative side effects associated with
ice. Importantly, several outreach workers report that while there continues to be a steady
number of ice users, the number of new ice users appears to be declining. This may be

due to the increasing awareness in the drug using community itself of the negative effects
of ice. One outreach worker states that, “they realize the negative impact of ice,
especially the psychological symptoms and so they begin to search for substitutes, a
process which I call „harmful reduction”. Alternatively, this may also be another factor
contributing to the popularity of fing tao and k-jai. Some outreach workers argue that ice
use is not on the decline, but only “appears” to be, “because the problem of ecstasy is
receiving a great deal of public attention.” Moreover, treatment staff believe that ice
users generally to avoid seeking help because

               There is a myth that its not that easy to get addicted to ice. The problems
       are not so apparent, at least at first. At the early stage, they don‟t feel any real
       discomfort. They just find that they have extraordinary powers and feel very high.
       There is no terribly bad feeling like heroin when they don‟t take it for awhile.
       And there is no need for users to find a lot of money, because a little goes a long
       way…Ex-heroin users who turn to ice have an impression that ice is more or less
       like a pill or “soft drugs.” And they think they won‟t get addicted. By comparison,
       they see their friends using heroin suffering from overdose or serious skin
       problems. Those things tend to scare them. Ice is “new” and so they don‟t really
       know much about the side effects.

        Cannabis, like ice, MDMA and ketamine, is also associated with young users who
enjoy the relaxing effects of the drug. Most users report that it is widely available and
increasingly popular. The rise in cannabis use is not surprising. With the rise in the
popularity of stimulant use, users have identified cannabis as a reliable and useful drug to
come down and to alleviate sleeping difficulties.

        Cough medicine has had a longstanding association with youth in Hong Kong,
and was very easily obtained through pharmacies. According to the central registry‟s data,
in 1991, cough medicine users accounted for 22% of all reported individuals under the
age of 21. In 1993, the Government placed greater restriction on the sale of cough syrups
with more than 0.1% of codeine or dextromethorphan. By the mid-1990s, after the
adoption of more stringent regulations, cough medicine users accounted for 10% of all
reported individuals in 1995 and by 1999, they represented 4.5% of all reported young
users. These official statistics suggest then that cough medicine use has fallen rapidly
since the mid-1990s. However, our users report that “cough water” has always been
widely available, easy to obtain, and remains steady in its use. Outreach workers and
treatment staff confirm users‟ views, and argue that cough medicine and sleeping pills are
easily purchased in pharmacies. According to one treatment worker:

       In Hong Kong, there are many drugs which you can get over the counter. The
       legislation is not very effective. There are many loopholes. The regulations state
       that when a person buys cough medicine, he should have a medical certificate.
       And he should write down his HK Identity Card number, address and telephone.
       Our clients can buy cough medicine easily without doing any of this. The same
       applies to sleeping pills. It is difficult to regulate these drugs.

       This agency‟s statistical report provides additional support that cough mixture
remains popular in Hong Kong. Among the 196 clients served from April 1999 through
March 2000, 43 percent of them reported abusing cough medicine.

                                 Modes of Use of Major Drugs
    Users report a variety of modes, rationales for using these modes, and reported
combinations of particular drugs to increase the desired effect or to lessen the comedown
from their main drug of choice.

     Heroin and Methods of Use
     Heroin first appeared in Hong Kong in the early 1920s in the form of heroin pills.
These were smoked in pipes in a similar fashion to opium. This practice spread rapidly,
peaking in 1939 when 3.7 million pills were seized and the Government estimated that
over 100 million pills were manufactured illegally for consumption in Hong Kong. Their
use declined and finally disappeared in the mid 1970s.

     The first case of heroin being smoked in a cigarette was reported in 1939. The
practice of inhaling the fumes of heroin (chasing the dragon) appeared in the early 1950s
and was attributed to Shanghai habits as a large number of people sought refuge in Hong
Kong during the period. It appears injection of heroin started in the early 1960s, and
gradually gained popularity. No. 3 heroin which had a purity of about 30% was used for
chasing the dragon, and No. 4 which was over 90% purity was used for injection.

      Smoking, sometimes referred to as “firing the ack-ack gun,” involves the placement
of a small amount of heroin onto the tip of a cigarette (McDouall 1985 and interviews).
Once lit, the user smokes the cigarette in a vertical position to ensure that the heroin
remains on the tip. Fume inhalation is typically done in one of two ways. The traditional
form of “chasing the dragon” entails the placement of heroin on a piece of foil, then
heating the underside of the foil with a candle, and inhaling the fumes through a paper
tube. A second method, also known as “playing the mouth organ,” involves inhaling from
a match-box instead of the paper tube.

        Today, official data, research studies, focus groups discussions, and interviews
with users confirm that the principal method of using heroin remains via injection use
although “new users” are more likely to fume inhale. The government‟s CRDA data
demonstrate the transition to injection use for newer compared to experienced users of

Table 2-6
            Method of Taking Heroin by Year and New Vs. Previously Reported

                  1995             1996           1997            1998           1999
                   %                %               %               %             %
Newly Reported Persons
Injection         19.8            22.2            18.6           19.4             21.3
Smoking           51.2            42.0            28.5          29.4              29.5
Fume Inhaling     46.0            52.4             62.2          59.0             57.3
Other*            1.8             1.5              1.6           1.9               0.6
Total Reported    2060            1855           1448           1221             1015

                    1995           1996         1997              1998           1999
                      %             %             %                %              %
                              Previously Reported Persons
Injection           63.1         61.8           59.5              56.4           59.9
Smoking                  25.9         23.6           15.3                17.3           18.7
Fume Inhaling       27.0        30.7            37.3             38.6            38.0
Other*              0.7         0.5              0.7              0.5             0.6
Total Reported     13880       14162           12742            12292

* Other includes oral and sniffing
Source: Central Registry of Drug Abuse, Hong Kong Narcotics Division, 2000

      As Table 2-6 indicates, since 1996, over one-half of newly reported persons (those
who are known to the central registry for the first time ever) indicate that their main
method of using is through fume inhaling. Although smoking dominated until 1995, it
has since decreased in popularity. Since 1997, slightly less than 30%of newly reported
users smoke. More experienced users tend to report injection use as the primary method
of using heroin. Over the last five years, approximately 60% of previously reported
persons (those who are reported to the central registry during that year but have been
reported previously) report injection use. Fume inhaling also has shown an increase in
the last five years with 38% reporting this method in 1999, and a corresponding decrease
in smoking with 19% reporting this mode in the same year.

        Since 1992, the Annual Street Addicts Survey on AIDS Awareness and Risk
Behavior has found that the majority of heroin users inject, although the proportion has
varied from year to year. In 1992, 82% of interviewed addicts were injection users; in
1994, 70.5% of them were injection users; in 1996, 67.5% of them were injection users,
and most recently, 71.4% of the 398 interviewed were injection users (Chi‟en, Lo and
Mau 1998).

     Our interviews with heroin users indicate that they typically were introduced to
heroin via smoking or chasing the dragon by a few friends in a small group. Injection use
normally began after regular use. Poon recalls that, in 1983, his friend borrowed some
money for “business,” (“because heroin users consider the act of taking heroin as
business”) and then proceeded to smoke in the elevators of a public housing estate. After
smoking for four months, he began injecting because it was easier, faster and induced the
effects quicker.

        Kai is a 34 year old heroin user who has worked in a variety of legitimate jobs
including truck driving, bar tending, air conditioning repair, and foreman on a
construction site since the age of 14. He began using heroin when he was 16. At the
height of his career as a construction site bossman, his best friend (who introduced him to
heroin) framed him in a corruption scandal, and since then, he reports that his life has
been on the decline. He turned to a variety of illegal jobs to pay for his heroin including
heroin delivery, pirated VCD seller, and smuggled cigarette seller. He describes the
transition in his method for using:

       S: The first time was on my friend‟s birthday. We went to his birthday party in a
       restaurant in Mongkok. He and his friend took it and asked me to smoke together.
       [After] I felt dizzy and then I vomited. And I had a terrible headache. When I first

       used it, I didn‟t think of any good or bad thing about it. Because my friend asked
       me to try it on his birthday, I couldn‟t reject him. And I also thought I could
       control it. In fact, in the first two years, I could really control my habit. I could
       take it once a week or even once a month…I could control the frequency and
       quantity. When I got addicted, the frequency and quantity I used increased. I felt I
       came to rely more and more on heroin. I also changed the method of using from
       smoking to shooting. In the first few times I took heroin, I just put the heroin
       powder into the cigarette to smoke. Then I used chasing the dragon. Finally,
       injecting is my main method.

       R: Why the change?

       S: We call smoke and chasing the dragon as the “Chinese doctor,” and shooting as
       the “Western doctor.” The main difference between the two is in the time of
       detoxification. The method of smoking and chasing needs about 10 days to detox.
       Moreover, you feel very uncomfortable and cough badly. However it only takes 4
       to 7 days for those shooting to quit. The “Chinese Doctor” suffer more than the
       “Western Doctor” during the time of “struggling.”

       R: Is that why you changed to shooting?

       S: Not really. When I got deeper and deeper into addiction, I needed to take more
       each time. But if I used chasing the dragon, I couldn‟t absorb 100% of the drug. If
       I injected the drug directly into my blood, nothing would be wasted. To save
       money, shooting is the best way. Because I could use the same amount of money
       to take 10 times if I use the “Western Doctor” while I could only take once by
       using the “Chinese Doctor.”

       R: What was the difference in the effects?

       I: When I first changed to shooting, I just considered the money issue. However, I
       found that I could have a more direct, stronger and higher feeling by using
       shooting. I could feel the heroin directly because I could absorb all of it. This is
       what chasing the dragon couldn‟t give me.

       I tell you one more reason why I like shooting. I like its convenience; it‟s fast.
       You need to do a lot of preparation and other stuff to chase the dragon. It takes a
       lot of time. How could I spend such a long time to do the stuff when I was
       working? I just needed to use a few minutes during the break to “charge my
       battery” if I was shooting. Then I could go back to work immediately.

        Younger users try smoking and chasing the dragon, but tend to shy away from
injection use. Some “newer” users try injecting once to feel the difference in effects, but
prefer not to continue with this method. Although they are aware of the benefits of
injecting (specifically more for your money), they describe a number of disincentives for
shooting. First, some addicts show increasing awareness of the risks associated with
injection use and needle sharing (see also Annual Street Addict Survey, Ch‟ien et al.
1999). Second, some users believe shooting is “dangerous,” fearing an overdose (and
death) from injecting. Third, younger users fear that injection use signals a transition in
their drug using status, to “full fledged” addiction; this is a status normally associated
with “old addicts.”

       Wan Man began using heroin two years ago at the age of 18, and was initially
       introduced to “chasing the dragon” by another patient in the psychiatric ward.
       (Wan Man had been admitted for attempted suicide.) Two months later, after
       leaving the hospital, she began using heroin regularly. Although she liked the
       feeling better from injecting (faster and longer) compared to chasing the dragon,
       she only injected that one time, fearing that she would get “too used” to shooting.
       She also smokes heroin mixed with cigarettes when with her friends, primarily
       because of its convenience over chasing the dragon. Her preferred method is
       “chasing the dragon” but this requires more equipment, preparation, privacy, and
       takes relatively longer to feel the effects (compared to injecting).

     Most users confirm a preference for “chasing the dragon” over smoking. Smoking‟s
main advantage, as indicated by Wan Man, is related to its convenience. Users note,
however, that smoking requires more heroin than other methods, and therefore, as Bing
(who has been using for the last six years) states is “wasteful and expensive.” He
switched from smoking to “chasing the dragon” because “HK$200 worth of heroin was
enough for four cigarettes, and lasted only one hour. Chasing the dragon is perceived as
being more cumbersome than smoking, but required “tiny amounts,” which lasted about
4 hours each time. Bing used approximately HK$600 per day on heroin.

        Field observations indicate that heroin is not only available in public areas,
particularly parks and locales near methadone clinics, there are well known copping areas
in different districts. One locale in the Eastern District appears to be a copping area well
known to community residents, outreach workers as well as the police. This particular
spot is situated off a main thoroughfare parallel to a small housing compound for
government staff. The main road is host to a number of small shops offering marble tiling,
groceries, and toiletries. On either side of the main road are two major public housing
estates. The copping area is an unpaved dirt road which leads from the main street back
to a natural stream with large stones and boulders. Of to the side of the stream is a
secluded path leading onto a hillside covered with large trees, and consequently
providing seclusion for copping. However, observations indicate that copping takes place
in the entire area, including the most visible parts at the beginning of the unpaved road.
Countless number of plastic wraps and used syringes were on open display in the midst
of much broken glass and mirrors. Several people were resting during observations and
appeared unconcerned by the presence of the used needles. It does not appear that this
spot is cleaned and presents some level of risk as it is easily accessible by the general
public (including children).

     Although there does not appear to be any government body dedicated to clearing
well known copping spots in public areas, the Pui Hong Self Help Association, organized
by ex-addicts and affiliated with SARDA, has been conducting needle clean ups since
1994. This is part of its Harm Reduction Outreach and Education Activities and involves
an estimated 20 volunteers who identify hot spots, and conduct periodic clean ups of
syringes. The hot spots are normally located near methadone clinics, well known to
addicts or identified through the press (Cheung and Ch‟ien 1997). The collected syringes
are normally placed in sharp boxes for proper removal. Each year there are six
outreach/clean ups across the Hong Kong region. From April 1999 to March 2000, the
group conducted outreach work and clean ups in the New Territories (old towns of Yuen
Long, Tai Wo Estate), in Kowloon (old town of Shek Kip Mei, and Lam Tin), and Hong
Kong Island (Chai Wan, Shau kei Wau, and Aberdeen) (Pui Hong Self Help Association
2000). Although figures are not available on the number of needles picked up from each
outreach session, Cheung and Chi‟en (1997) note that in one 1996 effort, 20 volunteers

collected 124 needles in public areas near Tai Wo Hau.

      The preferred method for heroin consumption is through injection and risk
behaviors remain relatively high especially needle sharing. According to the Annual
Street Addicts Survey (1998), needle sharing has declined from 1992, but remains
relatively high (Chi‟en, Lo and Mau 1998). Injection users have represented
approximately 70% of all interviewed users over the last five years (in 1998, sample size
of 398). Among surveyed injection users, 57% of them reported sharing needles in 1998.
In prior years, 60.4% of them shared in 1997; 66.6% of them shared in 1996, and 54.7%
shared in 1995. (These figures show a drop from 1992-1994 where needle sharing was
over 70% in each of those years). According to the Annual Street Addicts‟ Survey, the
majority of injection users who shared use disposable needles (although an approximate
10% possess private needles for repeated use) and do not use safe cleansing practices
(usually relying on rinsing in tap water or sterilizing in boiled water).

        The large percentage of injection drug users who share needles runs counter to an
often repeated assumption from our interviews. It is commonly assumed that needle
sharing is relatively rare because disposable needles are easily purchased at pharmacies
and are priced at a very modest cost of between HK$2 to HK$5 (about US$0.25 to
US$0.80). In spite of the availability and low cost of needles, injection drug users who
share their needles report that the main reasons for doing so are the unavailability of
needles in time of need (e.g., at night when pharmacies are closed), and followed by “for
the sake of convenience” (Chi‟en, Lo and Mau 1998).

        Despite the prevalence of injection use and needle sharing, the number of
HIV/AIDS through IDU has been comparatively low in Hong Kong (Hong Kong
Department of Health 2000a). At the end of June 2000, the number of HIV cases exposed
through injection drug use was 28 (or 1.9%) of a cumulative total of 1,446 HIV cases
(reporting system began in 1984). The number of AIDS cases exposed through injection
drug use was 8 (or 1.7%) of a cumulative total of 475 AIDS cases. Although the
proportion of the total number of HIV and AIDS cases related to injection drug use has
remained relatively small, two important trends must be noted. First, there has been a
slow but steady increase in the number of reported cases since 1991. Second, according
to the Department of Health (DOH), there has been a significant rise in the number of
injection drug users infected with HIV since 1997. Accordingly, the number of HIV cases
in 1997 was 2, in 1998 was 1, and in 1999 was 6. This trend in 1998 is also seen in the
Unlinked Anonymous Screening System (UAS) which shows the highest prevalence of
HIV antibody (0.21%) among methadone clinic users documented since 1992. The UAS
prevalence decreased to 0.11% in 1999. In addition, in 1999, voluntary testing in drug
treatment centers in year indicates a prevalence of 0.4%. This prevalence is higher than in
prior periods (DOH 2000b).

         There are several reasons that may account for the relatively low prevalence of
HIV/AIDS in relation to injection drug use in Hong Kong. Lee, Hollinrake and Ng‟s
(1998) observations of the first half of the 1990 indicate that it may be related to the the
20 television campaigns held from the late 1980s through the mid-1990s, accessibility to
sterile needles without prescription (although this runs counter to the Street Addict
Survey), and the availability of methadone at a nominal cost to the patient.

                           Modes of MDMA and Ketamine Use
          The principal method of using MDMA is ingestion. Normally half a tablet is
taken shortly before or on arrival at a disco, and topped off by the other half tablet

several hours later. Users tend not to exceed more than one to one and one-half tablets.
Depending on availability and the user group, ketamine is sometimes used as a “top off”
rather than the second half of the MDMA tablet. Field observations and user interviews
also indicate MDMA is sometimes crushed into powder form and dissolved into a drink
like soda or beer. At present, one popular drink for dissolving the tablet is Yakult (a
popular sweet yogurt drink), and according to some users, this drink induces the high

        The primary mode of using ketamine is through snorting. Similar to MDMA,
ketamine is sometimes dissolved into a drink, including “Diamond Black,” a popular
alcohol soda. Users‟ knowledge appears to be somewhat limited, as few understood the
risks of using ketamine with alcohol. Many users described snorting ketamine and
drinking “Diamond Black” as a chaser as a way of elevating the high. One of our users
who has lived overseas reports having seen, but not used, pumps to control the amount of
ketamine snorted each time. The powder is placed into the pump with enough for 3 to 4
doses and sniffed [N06].

        Our MDMA and ketamine respondents and outreach workers report that cannabis
is typically used as a means to come down from the drug and the dance experience and as
a way of alleviating sleeping difficulties.

                                      Modes of Ice Use
      Approximately 2 years ago, one of our fieldworker‟s was conducting participant
observation work in one section of the Southern District. At that time, ice was the
primary drug of choice among the 8 networks of user groups. The principal method for
using ice was to chip off a piece of the crystal and dissolve it in a drink. The rationale for
this method was its simplicity. Users reported being able to carry it with them, walk into
a fast food restaurant, and simply drop it into their soda. Our interviews with ice users
confirm that this mode of use still exists, but is not the preferred method as it does not
provide the “full effect” and is not as “smooth” as smoking.

        At present, the main method for consuming ice is via fume inhalation. There are
several ways to fume inhale, and this is dependent on availability of equipment, access to
private place and personal preference. The method of “chasing the dragon” for heroin has
been adopted by ice users. Many users, however, complain about the “bitterness” of ice,
and consequently, evaporate it with water, but more often, fruit juice (orange, grapefruit
and grape are frequently mentioned). Treatment workers suggest that “ice users see the
process of taking ice as an art. The process is ingenious. Quite a lot of equipment like the
water pipe and the „folding ship‟ are needed. They think its very enjoyable to do the

       Sandy describes this process:

       It was stored in a plastic bag that was normally used for earrings. Inside the bag
       were tiny pieces of transparent crystal, like the ice in the fridge but they are very
       small, the size of rice. Then my friends began to clean the tiny crystals and put
       them in aluminum foil and put it close to the lighter [folding the ship]. Light the
       lighter and heat the ice through the foil. When the ice began to evaporate, they
       opened a packet of fruit juice and put it over the vapor. The vapor filtered through
       the fruit juice and it had the fragrance of the fruit juice, and inhaled it.

      Light bulbs are sometimes used for fume inhalation. After removing the metal cover,
a tube is inserted over the opening, and a small hole is made in the glass. The glass is
then heated and ready for smoking. Home-made water pipes are also used by placing two
hollow tubes into a glass bowl which contains water or fruit juice. The user places a
small amount of ice on foil and places and burns it over one of the types while inhaling
through the opening of the other tube. A variation of this method is to place a small
quantity of ice inside one of the types and burn it with a lighter that has been altered to
produce a long flame (Hong Kong Police 1996). The passing of the smoke through the
liquid cools it and removes impurities, and hence produces a smoother taste. Plastic
bottles or fruit juice cartons are also used as quick and inexpensive methods as it requires
the container and two straws (referred to as book book). Treatment staff and respondents
using ice indicate that users “enjoy” the elaborate process and group setting in taking ice.
It is a sociable but private affair.

Methods of Use with Other Drugs
    All sources of data indicate that the primary method for using cannabis is by
smoking it in cigarette form. One user reports using hash with a pipe, but use of hash
appears to be relatively infrequent. Cough medicine is taken orally and among young
people, often supplemented with a soft drink.

Income Elasticity of Demand
      Price and Personal Income
      Price and income affect consumer decisions to purchase drugs differ depending on
the type of drug. The retail price of heroin appears to have little influence on users‟
decision to purchase, consume, or to try alternative drugs like ice. Heroin users indicate
that there are “simply no other drugs that can satisfy your need” [TG10].
“Discriminating” users report traveling to other districts to purchase better quality heroin
even if the cost is slightly higher. Importantly, it must be noted that users report that the
price of heroin has remained relatively stable over the last five years.

        Heroin users indicate that in the initial stages of their use, the money derived from
their job (among those who were employed at that time) was usually spent on purchasing
heroin. Before long, however, the sedative qualities of heroin began to take effect, and
soon after, they were late or absent from work and lost their job.The incentive to work
diminishes. Heroin becomes a “three meal a day” routine. Po describes the typical day of
a heroin user:

       I get up around noon, and then at around 2 or 3 pm I “eat” [use heroin] and then
       go out. I‟d go out and see if I have any money. If not, I‟d try to earn some money
       to get drugs… After I “eat” [use heroin], I‟ll go find money to buy again, and
       when I‟ve got the money, I‟ll “eat” again.

      Once heroin becomes a “three meal a day” routine, heroin using respondents
indicate that the need to obtain the drug dictates their actions. Legitimate opportunities to
make money seem to dissipate, and consequently, all the heroin users interviewed stated
that they began committing crime. One user describes the experience expressed by many,
“heroin comes to control the person. It makes the person do anything, commit crime in
order to get money to buy it.” Most of the illegal activities to acquire money for heroin
are short-term jobs with high levels of risks of detection by the police. Our respondents
acknowledge the risks, but point out that there are few other ways to obtain money.

       I turned to selling pirated video discs for a while and smuggling cigarettes
       because I was unemployed. I wanted to get quick money to buy heroin. Moreover,
       at the time, I was very thin and looked horrible because I injected too much. I
       couldn‟t find any jobs, so I decided to do illegal jobs. I also transported drugs but
       only for one month. I was employed by the dealer. If people called him, he would
       ask me to deliver the heroin to the meeting place and collect the money. I earned a
       lot doing this, nearly thirty thousand dollars in one month. I was paid weekly, and
       no matter how much heroin I delivered, I got the same salary. [TG09]

        When no legitimate or illegitimate income can be immediately derived to
purchase heroin, users devise a number of strategies to get heroin. One frequent method
is to share with others. Bing, who has been using heroin for nearly 30 years, tells us:

       When I have money, I would usually use heroin alone. I only use with others
       when I don‟t have money, so I have to share with others.

         Another method is to regulate one‟s existing supply. For example, one heroin user
states, “normally, if I have money, I‟ll inject every three to four hours. If I don‟t have any
money, I‟ll use it more sparingly, and inject every six hours” [TG05]. Some heroin
users also report mixing heroin with Midzaolam as a method of strengthening their high
and as a way to make their heroin supply last longer. Other heroin users, however, report
having an extremely negative experience with mixing Midzaolam, and as a result, avoid
this mixture.

       The feeling actually was different from using heroin alone. The moment I injected
       the mixture, even before I pulled out the needle, I already fell unconscious and
       the blood was just flowing out from the wound.

     Finally, heroin users who smoke or fume inhale, sometimes make the transition to
injection use, based on the rationale that shooting provides better value for their money
and the need to increase the strength of the high.

      The influence of price and personal income on purchasing ice differs somewhat
from heroin. Importantly, consumers have found and accepted the fact that while the
purity of ice has decreased, so to has the price. Ice users report that the price has
decreased by nearly one-half in the last two years from HK$500 per gram to
HK$200-250 per gram. Some ice users report that, despite the reduction in purity, they
began using more frequently because it was both more readily available and cheaper. One
ice user/street seller described trying ice a few times six years ago, but stopped because
the cost of one packet was HK$500. However, a year ago, in 1999, he met a dealer, and
began using ice again because “it was cheap, and sometimes, the dealer would give me
ice for free” [TG16].

        There are other underlying reasons why ice users perceive the price to be
relatively inexpensive. First, one packet of ice currently costs approximately
HK$200-250 and given the method of using, the effects are long lasting, typically for 2 to
3 days. As noted earlier, some heroin users have also consumed ice as a substitute for
heroin or as part of polydrug use, and consequently, using ice is comparatively cheaper
than using heroin since one packet lasts for days rather than for half a day. Second, most
users consume ice together and share their supply in a private setting of someone‟s home
or sometimes in a guest hotel, thus, keeping costs down.

        Given the “social nature” of using ice, the “lasting effects” of ice, and the relative
cost of ice, consumers had little trouble finding the money to purchase ice. For some,
purchasing and using ice was seen as productive for working and generating income.
Several male respondents indicate that ice provides a needed source of energy to
accomplish their work usually either in construction or driving. Other male respondents
add that ice gives them not only a source of energy, but bravado, a necessary trait to
engage in illegal activities like burglary, pick-pocketing, and selling drugs. Ultimately,
some ice users recognize that their own motivations to use and their income generating
strategies to purchase become a vicious cycle.

      The influence of price and personal income for purchasing MDMA and ketamine
differ considerably from heroin and ice. This is largely due to two factors. First, MDMA
and ketamine are associated with and used in dance settings. Consequently, the price of
the drugs is only one of several factors users consider when deciding to purchase. Users
believe that the cost of both MDMA and ketamine are relatively inexpensive as one
tablet or one packet of k-powder cost approximately between HK$100-HK$200. (The
relative price is reduced for users who share one tablet with another person or share the
powder with others in their group.)

        From users‟ point of view, the real cost is the price of the entrance fee for the
dance club or disco and the drinks. Although dance clubs normally have one free ladies
night, there is an entrance fee on most nights, especially during the busy weekends of
anywhere between HK$200 at the “cheaper” discos to HK$500 at the “up-scale” dance
clubs. Sometimes club goers will rent a private room or reserve a table, and this entails a
cost of HK$1,000 or more depending on the type of club. Users also have to consider the
price of drinks. The price of bottled water ranges from HK$50 to HK$150 while beer and
diamond black typically cost HK$50. It is not surprising, then, that users report drinking
beer and alcoholic soda rather than water when using MDMA and ketamine. The price of
the “experience” combined with personal income has a direct influence on the frequency
with which our respondents use MDMA and ketamine. Because these users vary in social
demographic characteristics, their personal income to purchase MDMA and ketamine
and to frequent dance clubs vary. Some users rely on the income derived from their jobs,
students tend to rely on “pocket money” from their families; and others use part of the
money obtained through selling. Few users report engaging in other types of crime to buy
MDMA and ketamine.

        May, a 19 year old, earns HK$9,000 as a shop assistant. She describes the rise in
the price of the dance and ecstasy experience:

       [R]: It‟s become very expensive going to discos now because there are more and
       more people going. Before a ticket cost HK$200 but now its jumped to HK$400.
       Suppose you got there every week, then you have to use over HK$2,000 a month.
       Frankly speaking, it‟s pretty wasteful.

       [I]: Can you calculate your expenses?

       [R]: Um… the last time was at “SaSa” which is very top end. I bought the ticket
       in advance, and it costs HK$400. If I walked in on the night, the price would be
       higher, HK$600. In the party, I bought one E which costs over HK$100. I had to
       buy one bottle of water that costs HK$50. Together with the transportation fee, at
       least HK$40 to get there one way. In total, it costs roughly HK$1,000 that time.

       That‟s very expensive.

      Users also note that while the price of ecstasy has remained relatively stable over
the last two years, the purity has varied substantially depending on the supplier. Users
caution that more people are selling and consequently, the dependability of the product is
sometimes uncertain. To avoid being “duped,” users try to rely on dealers who have sold
them “good” ecstasy in the past.

Public Awareness and “Rational Expectations”
     Table 1-2 provides the current sentencing guidelines for possession of the major
drugs (considered Dangerous Drugs) in the Hong Kong market. Ketamine is currently
being reclassified from a Part I Poisonous Drug to a Dangerous Drug. Users‟ awareness
of the effects and consequences of their use varied primarily according to drugs of choice
and age.

        Young heroin users (those in their 20s or below) typically had little knowledge
about the effects or consequences of using heroin or drugs more generally. Although they
had some “vague” idea from the mass media (either the Chinese press or television) that
drugs were not good, they knew little else. Fai, who is now 20, was introduced to
smoking heroin by his girlfriend at the age of 13:

       I was innocent when I started taking it. I didn‟t know it was heroin since they
       called it “sei jai.” I didn‟t know what is was, I just knew it‟s not a good thing. I
       felt free after taking it. At first though, I refused to take it. I took it after my
       girlfriend took it. She finally asked me to take it. Probably I took it because she
       was my girlfriend, I thought she wouldn‟t hurt me.

     As younger heroin users develop user and supplier networks, they begin to learn
about both the effects of particular drugs and the potential consequences of using and
supporting their addiction. Older, more experienced users are frequently a direct and
indirect source of information.

      It is usually when younger users get arrested, however, that they begin to really
understand the legal consequences of using and supporting their addiction through
illegitimate means. Fai comments that he learned from veteran users, however, this seems
to be in hindsight as he developed an extensive criminal record related to his use
involving aggravated assault, fighting, triad affiliation, shop theft, and burglary and has
received probation orders and been incarcerated in the Correctional Services‟ Drug
Addiction Treatment Centre.

       I know it‟s not a good thing. Otherwise I don‟t have to take it secretly. When I
       visited some old drug users, I knew the consequence. I knew which drugs had
       what consequences and how to escape from prosecution. I know what happens.
       The judge checks if you have committed a crime before. If not and you agree,
       then you are sent to Hei Ling Chau, forcing you to stop taking drugs. Otherwise
       you receive a probation sentence.

     Over time, users, either from direct experience or observing and learning from
others, develop some understanding of the negative personal effects and the potential
legal consequences of using AND of their illegal activities associated with obtaining
drugs. Ben, a 39 year old heroin user, expresses a common view among our


       I would buy heroin no matter how high the price was. I would use all my money
       to buy heroin. If I had more money, I would buy more. If I didn‟t have much
       money, then I would think of some methods to earn more money. They were all
       illegal things like “collecting” (extortion), holding and selling heroin, and even
       though I knew it was illegal, and I could be caught by the police, I would still try.

        Users who were engaged in illegal activities, particularly street level drug sales,
were less concerned about arrest for using and most concerned with police detection from
selling. This is due, in large, part to the differences in legal penalties. Those who engaged
in street level sales found the financial rewards tremendous, but realized that this type of
employment was risky, and therefore, only temporary.

       I noticed that after I started selling in my estate, there were a lot of police
       patrolling around, especially the staircases. That‟s why I stopped doing it,
       although I could earn quite a lot from selling. My friends warned me that you
       couldn‟t do this kind of thing for a long time because it would attract the attention
       of the police easily. So you have to stop for awhile. [TG12]

        Ice users initially had very limited knowledge about the effects of ice other than
hearing from other users that the drug provided a source of energy for a prolonged period
of time and resulted in sleeping difficulties. Importantly, they also “learned” from other
users that ice is not addictive and can be used in a controlled manner (rather than the drug
controlling them). Even after prolonged use, several of the ice users interviewed believed
that ice was not physically addictive, but only psychologically addictive.

       At the same time, long time ice users recognize the negative effects of using ice
and report disliking the aggressiveness and violence they see in themselves and other ice

                Ice could enhance my “criminal power.” I committed more crime and I
       knew the chance of being arrested increased. But I also began to feel very anxious
       and angry. I tended to use more violence and I felt depressed after the high period.
       I had illusions and was irritable. I felt that I saw hundreds of ghosts standing
       around me. I worried that they were going to kill me. I also thought the police
       were always knocking at my door and were going to arrest me. I remember one
       night I thought my girlfriend was shouting at me and I punched her. I had a lot of
       fights with her... But I didn‟t think I was addicted to ice. I didn‟t take any action
       to quit. I don‟t have a strong desire or dependence on ice. [TG04]

        Unlike heroin, users tend to be uninformed about the legal consequences of
possessing or selling ice. This is somewhat surprising as the penalties related to ice are
relatively severe and comparable to heroin.

        The experience of MDMA and ketamine users differs considerably from ice and
heroin users. Users generally have limited knowledge about the effects of these drugs and
have learned from peers about the importance of drinking water and keeping cool.
Middle class and educated users tend to have more knowledge about the drugs but
generally perceived the physical effects to be relatively minimal. (As noted earlier, they
tended to be more reluctant to use ketamine on than on an experimental basis, given
recent reports about its link to brain damage.) Perhaps the most important factor

considered by users in relation to MDMA‟s effect is the “knowledge” or assumption, in
some cases, that this is a drug that is not addictive and can be used as a recreational drug.

        Outreach and treatment workers observe that with the availability of ecstasy and
ketamine in the Hong Kong drug market, young people‟s attitudes towards heroin has
become more reluctant (not solely in terms of the effects of using but also in terms of
penalties). At the same time, they have adopted a more willing stance.

                Many kids have the notion that using heroin, and get caught with just one
       pill, they will be in deep trouble. But with ecstasy, they know the penalties are not
       the same. They use a lot of different ways to conceal it. They may even swallow
       the tablets. Sometimes, the kids put ecstasy in a hotel room next to the disco just
       to store the drug, and will go to get it when people want it, sort of like selling
       illegal compact discs. But its different with heroin, they know they could be in
       big trouble.

Media and Its Influence on Consumption
     Hong Kong‟s media industry is relatively large, competitive and noted for its
“shock” tactics in reporting stories (especially print). Over the last five years, over 50
newspapers have been in circulation (2 in English, the rest in Chinese), more than 650
magazines available (includes imported ones), 24 television stations (4 local stations, 2 of
which are solely in Cantonese), and about 15 radio stations (Consumer Asia 1999). The
top newspaper, Apple Daily, has an average circulation figure of well over 300,000 daily
(in 1997, this figure rose to 383,000, the latest figure available). Next Magazine, a
popular weekly tabloid, has sold an estimated 150,000 copies each year. These types of
magazines are extremely popular, offering news to attract and titillate all types of readers
with political commentaries, recipes, exercise regimes, celebrity updates, relationships,
features on individuals, and photo features of young women clad in lingerie and swim

     According to outreach workers, treatment staff and the police, recent press coverage
on MDMA and ecstasy has been very “high profile” and in two contradictory ways. On
the one hand, newspapers and magazines have reported on the side effects of taking
drugs. In the last year, there have been numerous articles reporting on the negative effects
of using ecstasy and ketamine.

     One the other hand, regardless of whether the press does report on the negative
effects, health or legal, few front line workers believe that young people will be deterred
by trying MDMA and ketamine. Instead, front line workers believe that the media has
portrayed the dance scene and club drugs in a glamorous and fashionable manner, and
consequently, captivates young people. The opening of the superclub, the “Pink Club,”
on 31 August 2000, featured prominently in the Chinese and English press. Entrepreneur
and co-owner, Didier Li, was interviewed for a full page front story feature which
underscored his attempts to bring the “hottest dance club” to Hong Kong and to make it
on par with other international venues (South China Morning Post 1 September 2000).
Full page articles and photographs also appeared in the Chinese press on the same day
documenting the opening of the club with an estimated 2,000 attendees among whom
were several local film and music stars. The biggest news, however, from this event, was
the “face off” between the police and Gilbert Yeung Kei-lung, the son of Emperor
Group millionaire, Albert Yeung Sau-shing and the boyfriend of Pansy Ho [daughter of
the Macau gambling and business magnate, Stanley Ho].

       Outreach workers commented:

       [A]: I rarely hear clients say, „I‟ve read from the papers that using these kinds of
       drugs are harmful.‟ They only recall magazines talking about stars going to rave
       parties and sometimes them getting arrested. They‟d skip the parts about the
       negative impact because newspapers feature in large print, news about the stars to
       attract readers‟ attention. Our clients won‟t take the initiative to read about the
       side effects of drugs because these are in small print. [usually a small box placed
       on the side or bottom of the page].

       [G]: If you buy a magazine then you will know the latest fashion, the newest drug
       trends and where to go for entertainment [discos]. What we worry about is the
       mass media‟s attempts to make it “high profile.” I am afraid that it will really
       make teenagers think it is a fashion especially since there are many pop stars
       taking it. People see this and associate it with relaxing. This is the commercial
       side of the magazines.

       [R]: When ecstasy and ketamine appeared on the drug scene, the mass media only
       focused on the good effects of these two drugs. For our clients who haven‟t tried
       these drugs, they told us they wanted to after reading the paper. The newspaper is
       one-sided. It quoted some youths‟ experiences of feeling good. Actually it is a
       factual report but not an ethical one. These articles always appear on the front
       page of the paper.

     Our interviews with users‟ generally confirm these views. As noted earlier, some
users have found the media stimulating their curiosity about MDMA, ketamine and the
disco scene.

                                  Youth in Hong Kong
        One of the most outstanding features of drug abuse in Hong Kong is the dominant
position that heroin plays in Hong Kong's drug market. Heroin has occupied this
position since the 1950s when there was a rapid increase in the use of heroin. Given
the prevalence of heroin use in Hong Kong it is sometimes assumed that this is most
popular drug of abuse among young people. What evidence there is regarding the abuse
of drug among young people comes from a series of government sponsored School
Surveys of Hong Kong students in secondary schools and technical institutes carried out
in 1987, 1990, 1992 and 1996 (Narcotics Division, 1988, 1991, 1993 and 1997).

        These surveys show that few students use heroin. However, the 1996 School
Survey indicated that there was an increase in the percentage of students abusing heroin.
The percentage of students who reported to have ever abused heroin from 0.4% in 1992
to 2.1% in 1996. The percentage of students who had abused heroin in the 30 days prior
to the survey also increased from 0.1% in 1992 to 0.8% in 1996. A 1996 Health Related
Behaviour Survey of secondary school students in Hong Kong found lowers rates of
heroin use. In this survey it was found that just under 0.4% of students reported ever
having used heroin and only 0.1% had used it in the month preceding the survey.
Regardless of these differences, it is clear that heroin use is not particularly widespread
among students in Hong Kong. While it is probably correct to say that any amount of
the heroin abuse might be of some concern the figures are exceedingly small and are
exceeded by the reported ever use of such things as cough mixture (7.4%) or marijuana


        Even though the amount of drug use is small there is always the possibility it is
on the increase. In fact this possibility has attracted considerable attention in recent
years. As mentioned above, even though the numbers are small, there is some reason to
believe that heroin use may have increased among young people in recent years.
However, concern with youthful drug abuse is not restricted to heroin but also includes a
variety of other psychotropic substances that are open to abuse. As the term is used in
Hong Kong, psychotropic substances involve such drugs as cocaine, cannabis,
amphetamines, cough mixtures and wide variety of tranquilizers. In some cases they may
not even be illegal. Consequently, their use is not likely to result in arrest or admission to
treatment either of which would ensure entry into the official drug abuse statistics
assembled by the Central Registry of Drug Abuse, the other main source of information
about drug abuse in Hong Kong.

         Is there a growing problem of drug abuse among young people in Hong Kong?
In the School Survey 1987 it was estimated that 1.1 per cent of all secondary students had
at some time abused psychotropic substances and that of these, 42 per cent (0.5 per cent
of all students) were regular users. On the basis of the 1990 survey, it was estimated that
the percentage of students who had used psychotropic substances had increased to 2.1 per
cent but that the regular users among this group of students had declined to 0.4 per cent
of all students). In the 1987 survey the two most common types of drugs abused were
methaqualone (brand locally available, Mandrax) (67.0 percent of drug-taking students)
and cannabis (25.0 percent of drug-taking students),

          Table 2-7. Psychotropic Drug Use Among Students in
                   Hong Kong

                                   b              c
          Drugs               1992           1996

         Amphetamines      69 (0.1%)                       17 (0.5%)
         Barbiturates      41 (0.0%)                       33 (1.0%)
       Marijuana          637 (0.8%)                       48 (1.5%)
       Cough Mixture     1249 (1.5%)                       234 (7.4%)
         Cocaine           21 (0.0%)                        7 (0.2%)
         Mandrax         179 (0.2%)                        12 (0.4%)
         Hallucinogens     1 (0.0%)                        12 (0.4%)
       Heroin            270 (0.3%)                         7 (0.2%)
         Opiates          29 (0.0%)                            6 (0.2%)
         Solvents        384 (0.5%)                        33 (1.0%)
         Tranquillisers 1112 (1.4%)                        21 (0.7%)

          Total Sample Size 81,100           3172
     All samples are drawn from local/Chinese secondary schools. 1992 figures
    only include responses from students enrolled Chinese-speaking secondary
    school. Respondents may report the use of more than one drug.

    1992 Survey on the Abuse of Psychotropic Substances Among Students of
    Secondary School and Technical Institutes. Hong Kong: Narcotics Division,
    Government Secretariat, Hong Kong Government, 1993. The age of the
    respondents range from 11 years and below to 21 and over.
      The Health Related Behaviour Survey in Hong Kong: Attitudes and
    Behaviours of 3207 Adolescents Concerning Health Related Matters
    1995-1996. Hong Kong: Drug Addition Research Unit, Social Sciences
    Research Centre, University of Hong Kong, 1995. The age of the respondents
    range from 11 year to 18 years and over.

Table 2-8 Hong Kong Secondary School Students Who Had Ever Taken Drugs for
        Non-Medical Proposes by Sex

                            b           c            d            e
Drug                   1987        1990         1992         1996


All Psychotropic Drugs         675 (1.5%)       1088 (2.6%)      1455 (3.9%)         215 (13.6%)
Psychotropic Drugs
Excluding Heroin                    ---            ---           1279 (3.4%)        210 (13.3%)

Heroin                              ---            ---             176 (0.5%)         5 (0.3%)

Total Sample Size             45,221             41,044           37,600              1582


All Psychotropic Drugs         335 (0.8%)         833 (1.9%)       1318 (3.1%)       215 (13.5%)

Psychotropic Drugs                 ---            ---              1226 (2.9%)       213 (13.4%)
Excluding Heroin
Heroin                             ---             ---              92 (0.2%)          2 (0.1%)

Total Sample Size   42,873          44,561     42,858         1590
     All samples are drawn from local/Chinese secondary schools. Responses from students enrolled in
    Technical Institutes and International Schools are excluded for the figures in this table.
    1987 Survey on the Abuse of Psychotropic Substances Among Students of Secondary Schools and
    Technical Institutes. Hong Kong: Narcotics Division, Government Secretariat, Hong Kong
    Government, 1988. „Sex‟ includes 876 respondents who were aged 21 and over.
    1990 Survey on the Abuse of Psychotropic Substances Among Students of Secondary Schools and
    Technical Institutes. Hong Kong: Narcotics Division, Government Secretariat, Hong Kong
    Government, 1991. „Sex‟ includes 52 cases in which the sex of the respondent was not recorded.
    1992 Survey on the Abuse of Psychotropic Substances Among Students of Secondary School and
    Technical Institutes. Hong Kong: Narcotics Division, Government Secretariat, Hong Kong
    Government, 1993.
  The Health Related Behaviour Survey in Hong Kong: Attitudes and Behaviours of 3207 Adolescents
Concerning Health Related Matters 1995-1996. Hong Kong: Drug Addition Research Unit, Social
Sciences Research Centre, University of Hong Kong, 1995.

       Table 2-9 Hong Kong Secondary School Students Who Had Ever Taken Drugs
for Non-Medical Purposes by Age

                            b             b            b
Drug                   1987          1990         1992
Age 14 & below

All Psychotropic Drugs            390 (0.9%)         801 (1.8%)         1208 (3.0%)       195 (13.7%)

Psychotropic Drugs
Excluding Heroin                   ---                 ---               1098 (2.7%)      190 (13.3%)

Heroin                             ---                  ---                110 (0.3%)        5 (0.4%)

Total Sample Size               43,576               44,209               40,897            1425

Age 15 & above

All Psychotropic Drugs            613 (1.4%)           1120 (2.7%)       1559 (3.9%)       235 (13.4%)

Psychotropic Drugs                  ---                   ---             1401 (3.5%)      233 (13.3%)
Excluding Heroin

Heroin                             ---                        ---          158 (0.4%)         2 (0.1%)

Total Sample Size                   43,684              41,448             39,561             1747

    All samples are drawn from local/Chinese secondary schools. Responses from students enrolled in
    Technical Institutes and International Schools are excluded for the figures in this table.
    Figures are derived from the following sources: 1987 Survey on the Abuse of Psychotropic Substances
    Among Students of Secondary Schools and Technical Institutes. Hong Kong: Narcotics Division,
    Government Secretariat, Hong Kong Government, 1988. 1990 Survey on the Abuse of Psychotropic
    Substances Among Students of Secondary Schools and Technical Institutes. Hong Kong: Narcotics
    Division, Government Secretariat, Hong Kong Government, 1991. 1992 Survey on the Abuse of
    Psychotropic Substances Among Students of Secondary School and Technical Institutes. Hong Kong:
    Narcotics Division, Government Secretariat, Hong Kong Government, 1993.
    The Health Related Behaviour Survey in Hong Kong: Attitudes and Behaviours of 3207 Adolescents
    Concerning Health Related Matters 1995-1996. Hong Kong: Drug Addition Research Unit, Social
    Sciences Research Centre,

     Age of the respondents are as follows: 11 years and below to 19 years of age for 1987, 1990, and 1992
    Survey on the Abuse of Psychotropic Substances Among Secondary Students and Technical Institutes,
    and 11 years to 18 years or above for The Health Related Behaviour Survey in Hong Kong: Attitudes
    and Behaviours of 3207 Adolescents Concerning Health Related Matters 1995-1996.

Table 2-10 Hong Kong Secondary School Students Currently Taking Drugs for
        Non-Medical Proposes by Sex

                             b             b              b            c
Drug                    1987          1990           1992         1996


All Psychotropic Drugs                 ---               239 (0.6%)          467 (1.2%)         153

Psychotropic Drugs                     ---                 ---               411 (1.1%)         151
Excluding Heroin

Heroin                                 ---                 ---                  56 (0.1%)               2

Total Sample Size                     45,221             41,044              37,600                1582


All Psychotropic Drugs                 ---               154 (0.3%)          328 (3.1%)         146

Psychotropic Drugs                     ---                 ---               306 (0.7%)         144
Excluding Heroin

Heroin                                 ---                 ---                  41 (0.1%)           2


Total Sample Size                     43,684             41,448              39,561             1590

     Current drug use is defined as taking psychotropic substance in the 30 days prior to the survey. All
    samples are drawn from local/Chinese secondary schools. Responses from students enrolled in
    Technical Institutes and International Schools are excluded for the figures in this table.
      Figures are derived from the following sources: 1987 Survey on the Abuse of Psychotropic
    Substances Among Students of Secondary Schools and Technical Institutes. The 1987 did not provide
    information on the relationship between sex and current drug use. Hong Kong: Narcotics Division,
    Government Secretariat, Hong Kong Government, 1988. 1990 Survey on the Abuse of Psychotropic
    Substances Among Students of Secondary Schools and Technical Institutes. Hong Kong: Narcotics
    Division, Government Secretariat, Hong Kong Government, 1991. 1992 Survey on the Abuse of
    Psychotropic Substances Among Students of Secondary School and Technical Institutes. Hong Kong:
    Narcotics Division, Government Secretariat, Hong Kong Government, 1993.
    The Health Related Behaviour Survey in Hong Kong: Attitudes and Behaviours of 3207 Adolescents
    Concerning Health Related Matters 1995-1996. Hong Kong: Drug Addition Research Unit, Social
    Sciences Research Centre.

     Table 2-11 Hong Kong Secondary School Students Currently Taking Drugs for
Non-Medical Purposes by Age

                             b             b             b          c
Drug                    1987          1990          1992       1996
Age 14 & below

All Psychotropic Drugs                 172(0.4%)         194(0.4%)          399(0.1 %)        133 (9.3%)

Psychotropic Drugs                        ---                 ---            362(0.9%)        130(9.1%)
Excluding Heroin

Heroin                                    ---                 ---             37(0.0%)           3(0.0%)

Total Sample Size                      43,576              44,209              40,897            1425

Age 15 & above

All Psychotropic Drugs                 253(0.6%)           199(0.5%)         396(1.0%)        166(9.5%)

Psychotropic Drugs                        ---                 ---            355(0.9%)        165(9.4%)
Excluding Heroin

Heroin                                    ---                 ---              41(0.1%)          1(0.1%)

Total Sample Size                          43,684           41,448              39,561             1747

     Current drug use is defined as taking psychotropic substance in the 30 days prior to the survey. All
    samples are drawn from local/Chinese secondary schools. Responses from students enrolled in Technical
    Institutes and International Schools are excluded for the figures in this table.
     Figures are derived from the following sources: 1987 Survey on the Abuse of Psychotropic
    Substances Among Students of Secondary Schools and Technical Institutes. Hong Kong: Narcotics
    Division, Government Secretariat, Hong Kong Government, 1988. 1990 Survey on the Abuse of
    Psychotropic Substances Among Students of Secondary Schools and Technical Institutes. Hong Kong:
    Narcotics Division, Government Secretariat, Hong Kong Government, 1991. 1992 Survey on the Abuse
    of Psychotropic Substances Among Students of Secondary School and Technical Institutes. Hong
    Kong: Narcotics Division, Government Secretariat, Hong Kong Government, 1993.
    The Health Related Behaviour Survey in Hong Kong: Attitudes and Behaviours of 3207 Adolescents
    Concerning Health Related Matters 1995-1996. Hong Kong: Drug Addition Research Unit, Social
    Sciences Research Centre,

     Age of the respondents is defined as follows: 11 years and below to 19 years of age for 1987, 1990, and
    1992 Survey on the Abuse of Psychotropic Substances Among Secondary Students and Technical
    Institutes, and 11 years to 18 years or above for The Health Related Behaviour Survey in Hong Kong:
    Attitudes and Behaviours of 3207 Adolescents Concerning Health Related Matters 1995-1996.

       while in the 1992 survey the two most commonly abused drugs were cough
medicines (54.7% of drug-taking students) and cannabis (27.9% of drug-taking students).
This pattern of drug use was continued in the 1996 School Survey which found that
cough medicines continued to be used by 54.7% of drug taking students and that
cannabis continued to occupy second place as a preferred drug although it was used by
50.8% of drug-taking students. In the 1992 School Survey the use of Mandrax had
declined to 7.8% of drug-taking students, while the 1996 Health Survey found that only
0.4% of secondary students had ever used this drug. More importantly, the 1996 School
Survey revealed that there had been a slight decrease in the abuse of psychoactive
substances among students since 1992. The percentage of students who reported to
have ever abused psychoactive substances, excluding heroin, decreased from 3.1 percent
in 1992 to 2.7 percent in 1996. Moreover, the percentage of those students who had
abused psychoactive substances in the 30 days prior to the survey decreased from 0.8%
in 1992 to 0.6% in 1996.

        The 1996 Heath Related Behaviour Survey suggests considerably higher rates of
psychotropic substance abuse among students (see Tables 2-7 to 2-11). This survey
found that drug use, even once, was admitted to by up to 14% of girls, with younger (11-
14 years) girls admitting more than older (15-19) girls (12%). For boys, corresponding
levels are the same, but age relationships are reversed with older boys at 14%and
younger boys at 12%. Once again, cough mixture and cannabis were the most often
reported drugs (see Table 2-7). For boys, cough mixture and 6%and 1% respectively in
the younger age group admits tranquilizer use. Cough mixture has been tried by 8%of
the older boys and cannabis by 2%. For girls, cough mixture and tranquilizer use is
admitted by 7% and 0.6% respectively. There are no consistent or significant
differences between different age groups.

        Motivations for Use
     As in other countries, one of the main motivations to experiment and continue using
drugs among Hong Kong youth is peer acceptance and pressure. The government‟s
narcotics registry indicates that the primary reason for current drug use among reported
individuals under the age of 21 is “peer influence” or “identification with peers” (CRDA
2000). Over the last five years, increasing numbers of young drug users reported, “peer
influence” as a main reason for current use.

Table 2-12
        Reported Individuals by Age by Top Reasons for Current Drug Use*
                        1995        1996       1997      1998         1999

Under 21
N=                          (2537)     (2497)      (2394)      (2336)        (1992)
                              %          %           %           %             %
Peer influence               52.1       57.1        62.9        60.6          62.3
Curiosity                    39.5       44.7        39.2        38.6          34.5
Relief of Boredom            25.4       23.0        25.9         27.2         29.7
Avoid Discomfort             30.4       32.4        30.8         30.5         29.1
     of its absence
Seek Euphoria or             13.6       14.5        16.9         25.7         26.8
     Sensory Satisfaction

Over 21
N=                        (11785)      (12655)       (11638)        (12375)       (12265)
                            %             %             %             %             %
Peer influence             32.8          27.5          26.1          25.5          31.1
Curiosity                  32.6         29.5           34.3          27.4          26.1
Relief of Boredom/         18.6         13.9           15.0          22.3          23.9
Avoid Discomfort           51.1          61.0           54.5         55.4          59.3
     of its absence
Seek Euphoria or           13.7          13.7           16.8         19.1          17.1
      Sensory Satisfaction

Note: Request made for motivations by drug, but unavailable.
Source: Extracted from Central Registry of Drug Abuse 45th Report, 1999, p.65

        As shown in Table 2-12, in 1995, over one-half of young persons reported to the
registry reported peer influence as one of the primary factors for their current use. This
figure climbed by 10% over the next four years. Other significant reasons included
curiosity, relief from boredom, and avoidance of discomfort respectively. Importantly,
the increasing trend in MDMA and Ketamine use among youth has very likely related to
the increase in the number of drug users under 21 reporting “seeking euphoria” as a
reason for current use. Among newly reported users under 21, the percentage citing
“seeking euphoria” began to climb (data not shown). In 1995, 14% of new users reported
seeking sensory satisfaction. During the first quarter of 2000, 45% of newly reported
users cited this reason. By contrast, nearly 60% of those reported individuals 21 or over
cited the avoidance of discomfort from its absence as the reason for continued use. These
official data are supported by other research.

      Non-governmental and scholarly studies report similar motivations for youth
involvement in drugs. Case studies of 40 incarcerated drug users under the age of 17
found that nearly all of them were initiated into drugs by their peers and over one-third of
them attributed their first experience to the direct influence of their friends (Hong Kong
Federation of Youth 1994). Based on this study and their prior research, HK Federation
of Youth, the largest non-profit youth organization in the region, concluded, “young
people have an excessive acceptance of the bad behavior of their peers. They do not have
good judgment or sufficient courage to tell their peers that they are wrong. They believe
that even though they mix with these peers, they will still not be affected” (HK
Federation of Youth 1994:78).

     Survey studies provide additional support for the strong relationship between
substance use and peer influence. Tang et al.‟s (1996) study of 969 adolescents (60%
were students and 40% were incarcerated delinquents), found a strong statistical
association between marijuana and heroin use and several social influence factors
including perceived peer drug use, susceptibility to peer pressure and perceived control
over access to drugs and marijuana use. Importantly, females in both sample groups
reported higher levels of drug use than their male counterparts (Wong et al. 1997). This
finding may be related to the girls being “more mature” than the boys as the former are
more likely to associate with older males in a deviant social group (p. 165).

       In addition to peer influence, Mok Chan‟s (2000) thesis also reports that students
found their own drug use, including the use of heroin, served to relieve the stress

associated with school pressures and poor family relationships (p. 164). The traditional
emphasis in Chinese culture of youth obedience and academic excellence continues to
permeate contemporary Hong Kong society. Much of local research has underscored the
psychological stress on young people from the cultural pressures to excel academically.
This cultural force also has been identified as one of the main sources of friction in
parent-child relationships (Lam 1999). Shek‟s (1997) longitudinal study of 429
adolescents‟ adjustment and their families found that parent adolescent conflict was
related to “relative” academic performance, school conduct, smoking and drug abuse.

        Poor family relationships are not strictly confined to academic pressures nor
solely to the stereotypical economically marginalized family. Some young people find
themselves in stressful, sometimes, violent home situations. Among the respondents
interviewed for this study, a few males and one female reported being beaten by one of
their family members.

       Candy is a 16 year old female who uses ice three to four times a day. She
       describes herself as coming from a very middle class background with her father
       being a manager of an electronic company and her mother formerly being a
       primary school teacher. She ran away from home at the age of 13 after enduring
       repeated beatings by her mother from the age of 7 years onward. According to
       Candy, “my mother used to beat me up all the time. My father begged her not to
       beat me every time, and she still continued to beat me. It was really serious and
       difficult. But I was rebellious. The more she beat me, the more I would fight her.
       Sometimes, we wanted to chop each other with the knives.” Although Candy does
       not speak of why her mother beat her (other than she was a rebellious child. Her
       sister, however, also was beaten.), she seems to have had a “tortured”
       relationships with her mother. She vividly remembers her mother “forcing me at a
       very young age of 3 or 4 to sleep in the dining room alone with no sense of
       security. The room was dark and spacious. There was a „doll in a white dress and
       the doll moved. It was horrible. I was scared. I also saw my grandpa. I saw the
       ghosts every night. I knocked on my mother‟s door, and cried until I collapsed on
       the floor until the next morning. My mother thought I was lying.” After running
       away, she lived like a “hermit crab with no stable place to live.” She has lived
       with a family that sells ice and earns money by selling ice and sex work.

        While some youths find release in drugs from Hong Kong‟s school and parental
pressures to excel, other young drug users report having a “good relationship” with their
parents, but are alienated from the school. As observers have noted, “there are relatively
few extra-curricular activities for children to develop their other areas of competence. As
a result, those who have poor grades in school suffer low self-esteem because although
they may excel in other areas, this excellence is not being properly recognized” (Mok
Chan 2000:41). One of our fieldworkers‟ ethnographic work in the Southern District of
Hong Kong has found family conditions vary with users living in “intact” and
“non-intact” families. Most of them reported good relationships with parents. At the same
time, they were disinterested in school and educational pursuits and exhibited an early
onset of misbehavioral problems. His study is based on participant observation with his 8
principal polydrug using informants and their user and nonuser networks (115 contacts)
over an 18 month period from mid-1998 until the end of 1999.

       The fieldworker‟s earlier study (Kwan 1998) of 25 male drug users aged 14 to 20
who were in the Correctional Services‟ compulsory in-patient treatment program
provides additional support for the view that some young drug users may not experience

academic pressure, but alienation from school. Among the youths he interviewed, all of
them were expelled from school, not because of their drug use, but because of their
“problematic behavior” and low school performance. The main problem with school,
from the youths point of view, was its‟ inability to stimulate them, it was “boring, dull
and uninteresting.” In relation to academic pressures and family conflict, he found that all
but two of the young men had amicable and satisfactory relationships with their parents
prior to the onset of their drug use. It was only after they began using that their family
relationships began to deteriorate. The link between the family and drug use was due not
to poor family relationships, but rather, related to the “empty nest syndrome.” A
predominant feature of today‟s Hong Kong family is one in which both parents are
working, away from the home for most of the day. In middle class families, domestic
workers often assume parental roles. In the case of working class families who can not
afford domestic workers nor have other relatives (e.g., grandparents) to provide
supervision and structure in the home, the children are left at home alone. As Mok Chan
(2000) also notes, workers have in recent years, begun working longer hours with bigger
workloads to deal with the Asian financial crisis, and increasing numbers of both men
and women are working across the border where business and employment opportunities
abound. These changes have significantly altered parent child communication and
relationships. According to Kwan‟s study (1998):

       “the subjects usually changed their clothes after school and went out to hang
       around with their peers or they slept until late afternoon and then went out for
       pleasure seeking. They simply remarked that their nests were empty and no one
       cares. There seem to be an unoccupied, unattended, and uncontrolled time span
       within the family milieu that predisposed a space for alternative behavior. In some
       cases peers played amusement activities and used drugs at home as no one
       knows” (1998:18).

        Cheung and Chi‟en, who reflected on the rise in young drug users from 1980 to
1994, have also noted that the rapidly expanding economy and its link to the rising
number of women joining the labor force in Hong Kong has altered the traditional
Chinese family structure, making it “vulnerable to instability and disruption”
(1996:1587). The labor force participation rate for women in Hong Kong has been slowly
rising to nearly 50% over the past five years (Hong Kong Census and Statistics 1999).
Women‟s roles in Hong Kong are also gradually becoming more equalitarian, and
consequently, when marital dissatisfaction occurs, divorce is more likely to be considered
(Cheung and Chien 1996). The number of divorce decrees has risen from 9,404 cases in
1995 to 13,408 cases in 1999.

      Epidemiological reports from the U.S. and other Western countries indicate an
increase in heroin use among middle class youth who are adopting the current trend of
“heroin chic” (CEWG 1999). Similarly, some young drug users in Hong Kong,
particularly females, find themselves experimenting with heroin in an attempt to achieve
the “fashionable” thin and pale look. As Mok Chan (2000) documents, the initial impetus
to use heroin was to model the trendy “pale ashen” color of models. This became trendy
in the mid-1990s when fashion advertisers promoted “the look.” In 1998, public protests
over William Tan‟s fashion ad of a young woman clothed in a dress made of syringes
resulted in the ad‟s removal in Hong Kong. Among female users, there was gradual
recognition that one is no longer fashionable but “ghostly” (Mok Chan 2000: 165). By
this point, however, these female users began using regularly. Chou and Chi‟en‟s (1997)
study of 100 at risk youths (42% of whom used within the last 6 months) confirm this
lack of awareness (or underestimation) of the costs associated with drug use among

adolescence. By contrast, those who were not using overestimated the benefits of using
drugs. The Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups (1994) also reports that among the
3,028 young people interviewed, 40% of them were certain that they could try
psychotropic drugs without becoming dependent.

      Despite this “heroin chic fashion” trend, overall heroin use among young people has
declined, and at the same time, psychotropic drug use, particularly MDMA, ketamine and
ice, has been on the rise among young people in Hong Kong. Front line workers and long
time observers of the drug scene indicate that the growing popularity of these substances
is due not solely to immediate factors like peer pressure and family stressors, but at
another level, is also due to the importation of Western culture into Hong Kong as many
youth and/or their families live abroad in the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and Australia, and
then return to Hong Kong. Part of the youth culture acquired abroad includes an
“openness” to experiment with drugs. Tam‟s case provides an example of the “freedom”
sometimes experienced abroad.

       Tam is a 21 year old male who has used heroin, ice and ecstasy for the last 6, 5
       and 1 years respectively. He also has regularly used LSD while partying. His
       parents sent him to Australia at the age of 15 after he was expelled from school in
       Hong Kong, believing that he would do better if he left the local environment and
       was no longer associating with triad members. After boarding school, he was
       living on his own and began using heroin one month after starting university. He
       was suspended from school for lack of attendance within three months. His initial
       motivation to use was to “play” with his friends, some of whom were university
       students. Shortly after using heroin on a daily basis, he began living with a group
       of heroin dealers. He also began using ice as his friends indicated that he would
       experience a different high and enjoyed playing ball games, watching films and
       singing after using ice. He spent time in an Australian prison for possession and
       eventually returned to Hong Kong earlier this year. Upon returning to Hong Kong,
       he continued to use, borrowing money from his parents who have gone into debt
       over his school and drug problems. He was arrested in Hong Kong, and has been
       in treatment almost two months. [TG03]

       Cheung and Chi‟en also cite the influence of Western youth culture as an
important factor affecting youth drug use in Hong Kong from the 1980s to the mid-1990s,
but with a slightly different rationale:

       The influence of youth culture from the West has played a role in the changing
       drug scene in Hong Kong… Nevertheless, LSD has never gained a foothold
       among the local young people, probably because hallucination is closely
       associated with mental disorder under the Chinese culture. The milder effects of
       marijuana, organic solvents, and codeine… are not considered hallucination but
       exhilaration. Compared with Western youth, the young people of Hong Kong are
       relatively more reserved and timid; however, many do seek exhilaration through
       alcohol and mood-altering substances to unfreeze themselves from socio-cultural
       inhibitions. This Western influence has facilitated young user'‟ acceptance of, and
       increased their demand for, many of the drugs of choice among their Western
       counterparts. (1998:1589).

     It is clear that the drug scene in Hong Kong has been changing over the last five
years for young people. Clearly, the “Western influence” of the MDMA and dance party
scene has moved into Hong Kong. But locally, it has taken on a life of its own, shaped by

its‟ own youth culture, the entrepreneurial spirit of triad groups (discussed below), and an
environment that places far greater emphasis on academic achievement than on the
development and nurturance of adolescence.

                    Corrective Facilities: Treatment & Rehabilitation
      Some observers refer to Hong Kong‟s overall drug policy as one of “enlightened
prohibition” because of its ability to address both supply and demand reduction (Cheung
and Chi‟en 1997). On the one hand, the Government‟s actions include stiff penalties,
particularly for trafficking. One the other hand, the Government has devoted a great deal
of its focus to demand reduction, particularly in the area of treatment and rehabilitation.
Penalties for users are based on the notion of compulsory treatment rather than on

         As Table 2-13 indicates, Hong Kong‟s anti-drug costs are focused principally on
two areas: law enforcement and treatment and rehabilitation. While education and
prevention has represented 5% or less of the total annual costs for the last five years, less
than 2% of the total annual costs have been for research. By comparison, law
enforcement costs represent between 44% and 50% of the total annual expenditures for
the last five years. There was a slight proportional decrease in the last two fiscal years.

        The government has invested into and developed a relatively comprehensive
strategy in the treatment and rehabilitation of drug addiction. As Table 2-13 indicates,
treatment and rehabilitation costs present nearly one-half of the total annual costs on
anti-drug programs and service in fiscal year 1999/2000. This proportion of the total
budget has risen slightly over the last five years from 44% in fiscal year 1995/1996 and
fiscal year 1996/1997 to 47% in fiscal year 1997/98 to 50% in fiscal year 1998/1999.

                                         Table 2-13
                      Annual Cost on Anti-Drug Programs and Services
                                      In HK$Millions

                             95/96        96/97          97/98            98/99          99/00
Treatment & Rehabilitation
 Dept. of Health (1)       57.0           63.0           76.8              81.5          92.6
 Correctional Services    102.5           122.7          147.6            179.0          165.5
 Methadone Clinics        29.3                    31.1           33.1             33.5
 Hospital Authority (2)    3.0             8.1            8.6              9.1             9.1
 Social Welfare Dept. (3)  8.9            17.2           21.2             49.7            45.2
 Narcotics Division        2.7             3.0            3.3            10.5              7.9

  Subtotal                 203.4           245.1            290.6        363.3           354.3

Education &
Prevention Efforts (4)     20.7            16.8            30.4           34.8            36.4

Law Enforcement (5)         224.9         273.8            286.5          314.6          318.4

Research                     7.9            7.8            8.8            8.8              9.8

International Cooperation 2.3                      2.4             2.7            3.0

 Total Costs                459.2         545.9           619.0           724.5          721.9

(1) Includes subventions to NGOs
(2) For operation of 6 substance abuse clinics
(3) Includes subventions to halfway houses and Against Substance Abuse Scheme
(4) Includes expenditures of Education Dept., Narcotics Division and Information Services
(5) Includes expenditures of Police, Customs & Excise, Justice Dept., Govt Laboratory and
    Narcotics Division

a) Figures for 95/96, 96/97, and 97/98 are estimates. Figures for 98/99 and 99/00 are actual
b) Figures for Narcotics Division include allocations from the Beat the Drugs Fund.

Source: Narcotics Division, Special Request 2000

        The rehabilitation and treatment program involves two basic components. One
component is the mandatory treatment program administered by the Correctional
Services Department. In this program, drug users sentenced to prison for any offense can
be mandated by the courts to enter compulsory treatment. The length of stay varies from
two to a maximum of twelve months. Inmates are mandated to a 12 month statutory
aftercare supervision. The Correctional Services Department operates two drug addiction
treatment centers (DATC), Hei Ling Chau (divided into two separate institutions for
those 14-21 and those 21 and over, total capacity is 964 inmates) for males and Chi Ma
Wan (over 14) for females (total capacity is 190).

        The objectives of the DATC are threefold: “1) detoxification and restoration of
physical health; 2) uprooting of psychological dependence on dangerous drugs; and 3)
preparation for re-integration into society” (Narcotics Division 2000b). These aims are
achieved through comprehensive medical treatment, work therapy, physical education,
education (including in the evening with adults participating on voluntary basis and
youth on a mandatory basis), psychological services, individual and group counseling,
relapse prevention course, prerelease program, job placement, accommodation upon
release, and aftercare supervision. Upon admission to DATC, inmates are assigned to an
“intensive treatment plan” or “remedial treatment plan”, depending on their social
background, and prior institutional and addiction histories. The intensive treatment plan
is designed for with relatively less serious histories and first timers. The remedial
treatment plan is for those with a significant prior history of addiction and have
experienced prior treatment programs. A less demanding geriatrics regime is provided for
those inmates over 55 years of age. According to CSD figures, the percentage of DATC
inmates with prior DATC experience has risen during the last five to over 50%. At the
same time, according to CSD‟s calculations, the DATC‟s success rate (release and
follow-up supervision during first year) has been over 60% for the last four years.

                                         Table 2-14
                   Percentage of DATC Inmates with Prior DATC Experience
                                       & Success Rate

                           1995            1996           1997             1998           1999
% DATC inmates with
prior DATC experience       37.4%          37.8%          42.8%            50.9%         53.8%

Success Rate (1)           58.9%           64.8%          68.0%            69.7%         68.0%

(1) Success rate is based on period from discharge for one year. This one year period
includes aftercare supervision.

Source: Correctional Services Department, Special Requests

      Our interviews with users who have been imprisoned suggest a mixed experience
within this institutional setting. On the one hand, respondents proudly described their
ability to detoxify in the DATC. In this environment, on the other hand, they also report
establishing relationships with others, and learning more about drug use and its
consequences. For some users, release back to their neighborhood and peers further
contributes to relapse. Moreover, some younger users believe that their age makes them

       Chin is a 28 year old male who has used heroin for 14 years and ice for 7 years.
       He has been imprisoned for nearly 6 years in the past 11 year period, and has
       been incarcerated on 9 separate occasions for “garden variety” offense including
       possession of dangerous drugs, burglary and theft. He is currently on probation
       now for a charge on possession of dangerous drugs. During his periods of
       incarceration, he was able to detox, in what he believed to be very fast, about 10
       days. Consequently, upon his numerous releases from DATC, he returned
       immediately to his triad associates and began using heroin, based on the rationale
       that his young age would protect him from any “real harm.” He also indicates that
       being young meant having “a lot of time to spend and waste.” He indicates that
       his knowledge of drugs and legal consequences was largely due to his
       incarceration where he befriended other inmates and where “you can know a lot
       more about these things in prison. A lot of things… like how to avoid being
       arrested. [TG04]

      For some young users, being heroin free and being employed upon discharge raised
their self-esteem and determination. But again, returning to the same environment
frequently means returning to using. Sai Wing has been incarcerated four times for
offenses including theft, burglary, and larceny. He reported that upon his release from
Hei Ling Chau:

       After I came out of Hei Ling Chau, I had so much confidence that I could quit
       using drugs. And I found a job within a week as a construction worker. I liked that
       job very much because during that time, I made friends with my co-workers and I
       earned money on my own. But after I got in touch with my friends, I started
       taking heroin again, and I stopped going to work. [TG08]

        The second component is designed for users who voluntarily seek treatment and
rehabilitation services. There are 12 residential centers, operated by non-governmental
organizations, and offer differing services depending on client needs like religious
conversion, intensive counseling, peer support and prescription drugs for detoxification.
The overall aims of these residential programs are the provision of detoxification,
treatment, rehabilitation, and aftercare for users wanting to be drug-free. Table 2-15
provides a listing of the agencies and clientele.

                                         Table 2-15
                        Voluntary Residential Programs in Hong Kong

             Agency                         Clientele
Barnabas Charitable Service Assn.       Female, mostly <21 yrs           24

Caritas-HK                              Male, <25 yrs                    20

Christian New Being Fellowship          Male, <21 yrs                    54

Christian Zheng Sheng Assn.             Male & Female                27 male,10 female
                                                                           65 youth

Drug Addict Counseling &                    Male                         20
  Rehabilitation Services

Finnish Evangelical Lutheran             Male, <40 yrs                   24
  Mission Ling Oi Youth Center

Operation Dawn                          Male & Female                132 male, 4 female

Perfect Fellowship Limited                    Male                       20

Society for the Aid and               Male & Female                350 male, 39 female,
  Rehabilitation of Drug Abusers                                        20 youth

SER Foundation                        Male & Female,              60 males, 15 females
                                      mostly 18-35 yrs

St. Stephen‟s Society            Males & Females, including teens,         200 male
                              Vietnamese & English speakers w/             30 female
                                Addictive behavioural problems             30 youth

Wu Oi Christian Center                Male & Female                70 male, 16 female,
                                                                          30 youth

Source: Narcotics Division, 2000b

        The total number of voluntary residential bed spaces is 1,122 for males and 138
for females. According to the Central Registry of Drug Abuse reports, the proportion of
adult male heroin users admitted into voluntary residential care of the total number of
adult male heroin users reported to CRDA has increased over the last three years from
17% in 1997 to 19% in 1998 to 21% in 1999. For males, admissions rose from 1,999 in
1999 to 2,101 in 1998 to 2,197 in 1999. Similar trends are apparent for females. The
proportion of adult female heroin users admitted into voluntary residential care of the
total number of adult female heroin users reported to CRDA has increased over the last
three years from 8% in 1997 to 9.2% in 1998 to 12.5% in 1999. Female admissions rose
from 89 in 1997 to 100 in 1998 to 148 in 1999. Among young heroin users, voluntary
male and female admissions has remained relatively constant, ranging from 15% to 27%

of all reported young heroin users (Narcotics Division 2000c). The Government is
currently reviewing a proposed licensing scheme to ensure the proper management of
these facilities, to keep a register of all of these agencies, and to place these centers under
uniform control (Narcotics Division 2000c).

        Many users interviewed for this study have experienced gone through the
mandatory DATC and voluntary residential programs. Comparatively, users describe
being more determined and committed to quitting when their participation is voluntary.
Lai, who is 20 years of age, has just entered into a voluntary treatment Christian
residential program, and has been to Hei Ling Chau at the age of 15. He has been using
heroin for 7 years and ice for 5 years.

       I stopped only because I didn‟t have any freedom or choice when I was in Hei
       Ling Chau. But actually, I wanted to change. To stop. Every time, I wanted to stop,
       but I start retaking it. The situation when I came out of Hei Ling Chau was that I
       started working for a car shop, earning HK$3,000 a month. But I felt it was
       impossible to work all the time, I needed to find my friends. All of them were
       taking drugs. Once I found them, I started taking drugs again. Once I met them, I
       was happy… I think the most important thing is what you think. If the court
       forces you, it‟s useless, they want you to be good but you think that you haven‟t
       played enough. When I got out, I had freedom; the freedom to choose to take
       drugs again. This time is different since I entered on my own will. It‟s my choice
       and I know what the result will be if I fail to stop using. [TG01]

      Outreach workers that “legal penalties may threaten them a little. But for those who
have already been locked up several times, penalties mean nothing. They don‟t fear
prison, they just don‟t like going to the DATC because they may have to stay longer than
if they were in prison. I think the most important factor is their own decision to quit.
Sometimes, they just suddenly „wake up.‟”

        Cheung‟s (1997) follow-up study of former residents of SARDA indicated that
only 23.5% of 200 subjects had completed the entire rehabilitation and aftercare
program. However, the abstinence rate, when disaggregated into phases, seems relatively
high with 43% in the Phase 1, 48% in Phase 2 and 57% in Phase 3, suggesting an
increase over time. Importantly, the evaluation found that full time legitimate
employment, involvement in social and recreational activities and self-help groups (Pui
Hong), social support from family, non-drug using friends and recovered friends, and
neighbors, psychological well being and formal support services were salient protective
factors against relapse.

     Other voluntary treatment services are available including outpatient counseling
from PS33 (focus on psychotropic drugs), Caritas HUGS, Against Substance Abuse, and
the Hong Kong Lutheran Social Services. Some of our MDMA and ice users have
received outpatient services from these agencies, and while finding them helpful, have
found that they, unlike residential services, remain in an environment where peer
pressure is strong.

       Importantly, it should be recognized that with the exception of some outpatient
services, the primary treatment modality is aimed at opiate addiction (given its historical
dominance in Hong Kong). Some residential treatment staff have indicated that they have
encountered difficulties in working with ice users as their traditional treatment
approaches are not appropriate suitable for intervention. At present, the Action

Committee Against Narcotics (ACAN) has commissioned a research study on the trends
of psychotropic drug use in Hong Kong, and the experience of overseas countries in
trends of use, law enforcement, treatment and rehabilitation, and education.

       Methadone maintenance is another primary voluntary treatment service offered in
Hong Kong, since 1972. The 21 clinics scattered throughout Hong Kong are operated by
the Department of Health and includes maintenance and detoxification options. The most
popular is maintenance, and entails a does of methadone each day. Detoxification is
intended to gradually reduce clients intake of methadone until they are completely free of
drugs. The methadone clinic recorded 2,460,316 patient attendance for 1999. The
average daily attendance during the year was 6,741 (Narcotics Division 2000b). Of the
9,812 registered patients in 1999, 91% of them were male, and 97% of them were 21
years of age or older.

                                     Table 2-16
                             Methadone Clinic Attendance
                    1995         1996          1997      1998                       1999
Patient Attendance 2,555,812   2,619,302    2,523,485    2,442,205

Aver. DailyAttend     7,002          7,157            6,914         6,691           6,741

        Among the heroin users interviewed, nearly all of them had gone on methadone
maintenance at some point. While their initial motives for trying methadone were to get
off heroin, before long, they began using methadone as a supplement rather than an
alternative to heroin. Methadone was typically perceived as a drug used when there was
no heroin and no money. Wong‟s (2000) study of five methadone users indicates that all
of them were using methadone as well as other drugs while participating in the
methadone program. His respondents wanted to become totally drug free but were
uncertain as to whether this was possible. Importantly, they believed that family support
and social acceptance (rather than stigma) were critical protective factors.

       Although there are no studies available on community sentiment on drugs in
Hong Kong, outreach workers and treatment staff interviewed for this study suggest that
the drug problem in Hong Kong has generally been understood by the public as a heroin
problem. The “heroin addict” is perceived with a high degree of stigma.

       [B]: In Hong Kong, people associate drug users with heroin users immediately.
       They still have a very bad negative impression about heroin users. The
       psychotropic drug users are not so easy to recognize, so people may not have any
       feelings towards them. They may just see them as unruly youth.

       [M]: The labeling of heroin users is very strong. The social status of those who
       take heroin is very low. They are seen as useless. However, taking ice and
       cannabis are viewed as high class activities. Some people may think that only
       artist-types take cannabis.

         Given recent media attention on MDMA, ketamine and the dance club scene and
the dance club scene‟s wide popularity across social classes, it is difficult to determine
whether and how community sentiment will move. The Government has stepped up its
education and publicity efforts to inform the general public about the harmful effects of
“hard” and “soft drugs” through public forums, school programs, educational leaflets and
posters [specifically on cannabis, MDMA, and ice], meeting with rave organizers, and
electronic display signs at the Lowu Border checkpoint with reminders on possessing
illegal drugs and associated penalties.

                         Social, Cultural and Indigenous Safeguards
     It is difficult to discern any traditional or cultural influences in support of drug use
in Hong Kong although certainly the tolerance and legal status of opium use in the early
colonial days may have some historical link to the emergence, dominance and preference
for opiates, like heroin, in subsequent years. And as noted earlier, hallucinatory
substances like LSD failed to emerge on the Hong Kong drug market, due in large part,
to hallucinations being traditionally associated with mental illness. This cultural belief,
however, seems to have dissipated in recent years, as evidenced by the experiences
described by ice users.

3. Market Clearing Mechanisms
Prices, Fluctuations, and Purity
     Table 3-1 provides the wholesale and retail prices, purity levels and seizures of the
major drugs in the Hong Kong market.

                                         Table 3-1
               Prices, Purity, and Seizures for Major Drugs in Hong Kong*

                                      1995       1996       1997     1998     1999
Wholesale (per kilogram)            $206,500(1 $230,000(2 $153,570 $148,900 $153,633
                                         )           )

Retail (per gram)                      $363        $409        $419       $427        $386
Purity (retail)                       22.5%       30.6%       49.5%      55.1%       46.4%
Seizures                                411       309.1       202.2      209.4       287.5
      Year end figure - 195,000
      Year end figure - 175,000

Herbal Cannabis

                                       1995        1996        1997       1998        1999
Wholesale (per kilogram)             $10,250     $12,250      $9,583     $8,500      $9,229
Retail (per gram)                      N/A         N/A          $50        $50         $50
Purity (retail)                        N/A         N/A         N/A         N/A        N/A
Seizures                              1052.4      8822.7      1002.1      585.1       26.3


                                       1995        1996       1997     1998     1999
Wholesale (per kilogram)               N/A         N/A      $360,000 $315,000 $322,500
Retail (per gram)                     $1,050      $1,205     $1,350   $1,350   $1,350
Purity (retail)                        90+         90+        90+       90+     90+
Seizures                                1.8        13.9       31.3     167.7    12.0


                                      1995        1996        1997        1998       1999
Wholesale (per kilogram)             $43,500     $36,500     $40,083     $48,375    $47,666
Retail (per gram)                      N/A        $299        $340        $510       $440
Purity (retail)                        95+         95+         95+         95+        95+
Seizures                               15.4        46.8        73.6       232.7      102.1


                                       1995        1996       1997        1998        1999
Wholesale (per tablet)                 N/A         N/A        $100        $100        $100
Retail (per tablet)                    N/A         N/A        $250        $250        $227
Purity (normally mixed-)               N/A         N/A        N/A         N/A         N/A

Seizures (tablets)                      24        14,295   49,613           282       21,202
                                       +2gm        +86.4gm (mix)

    Notes: a) Figures based on mixture rates. b) The police were unable to supply
     price figures for some drugs in 1995 and 1996. It was deemed not suitable to
     include users‟ prices for these years.
Source: Hong Kong Police, Narcotics Bureau & Government Chemist
      The wholesale price of heroin in 1995 averaged at HK$206,500 per kilogram, but
with a year end average of HK$195,000. The retail price ranged from HK$307 to
HK$463, with an average price of HK$363 per gram. During that year, the purity level
was the lowest documented for the last five years with an average retail purity of between
15% and 30%. Heroin users interviewed for this study report very poor quality heroin
during this period. According to the government chemist, heroin has typically been cut
with caffeine, paracetamol, chlorpheniramine, theophylline, antipyrine, carbetapentane,
and phenobarbitone. Our users also report that over the last year, they believe their
packets were cut with “ice” as well as midozolam. The fluctuations in pricing and purity
is reportedly due to severe torrential rainstorms in the cultivating and transit countries as
well as a strengthened crackdown by mainland Chinese and Golden Triangle authorities
(Narcotics Division 1995). That year also represents the largest heroin seizure for the five
year period with 411 kilograms confiscated by Hong Kong law enforcement.

         The wholesale and retail price of heroin rose from 1995 to 1996, and so to did the
retail price. The average wholesale price dropped significantly to HK153,570 in 1997 and
appears to have stabilized since then. The average street level price rose (with
wholesale prices) in 1996, but remained constant through 1998. The average retail price
declined slightly in 1999, despite a rise in the average wholesale price. Importantly, street
level purity rose, ranging from 22% to 45% over the course of 1996 and continued to
increase over the next three years with 1998 recording the highest average street level
purity of 55%. The slight decline in average retail price in 1999 has a corresponding
reduction in purity that year. Seizures began to drop in this year, and continued in this
manner for the following two years. Overall, however, the pricing and purity fluctuations,
however, do not appear to be substantial.

        The wholesale and retail price of cannabis has remained stable over the last five
years (although it is noted that average retail prices for 1995 and 1996 were unavailable).
Despite the consistency of pricing of cannabis, seizures have dropped significantly. The
peak year for cannabis seizures was in 1996 with a record of 8,823 kilograms. Last year,
law enforcement recorded 26.3 kilograms of cannabis.

                                       Table 3-2
              Retail Prices of Different Drugs Over the Last Five Years

Retail Prices of Different Drugs between 1995 and 1999

                                       1995      1996      1997      1998      1999
Heroin (per gram)                      $363.00 $409.00 $419.00 $427.00 $386.00
Herbal Cannabis (per gram)             N/A       N/A        $50.00    $50.00    $50.00
Cocaine (per gram)                   $1,050.00 $1,205.00 $1,350.00 $1,350.00 $1,350.00
Ice (per gram)                         N/A       $299.00 $340.00 $510.00 $440.00
MDMA (per tablets)                     N/A       N/A       $250.00 $250.00 $227.00

        The market for cocaine is relatively limited, in part, because of its‟ availability,
but as importantly noted by users, its‟ expensive price. Compared to other drugs on the
market in Hong Kong, cocaine ranks as the most expensive at the wholesale and retail
price. The average wholesale price over the last three years has been over HK$300,000
per kilogram and a retail street price of over HK$1,000. Street level purity is consistently
high at over 90%.

        The average wholesale price of “ice” appears to be relatively consistent, although
there was a slight decline in 1996 at HK$36,500 per kilogram. The last two years,
1998-1999, have witnessed a rise of about HK$8,000 per kilogram compared to 1997.
According to police statistics, the average retail price per gram began to rose steadily
during the first four years, but dropped slightly in 1999. The average retail price of ice in
1995 is not reported in the table because, according to the police, ice was purchased at
the ounce level, and consequently, they report the retail price of ice fluctuated between
HK$2,800 and HK$3,000 per ounce. When the average is calculated into grams, the price
appears to be approximately HK$100. The police indicate that this price is not reliable
given pricing in subsequent years. The ice users interviewed for this study indicated that
the street level price of ice has come down significantly over the last five years (as noted
in chapter 2), and is at odds with the police data. According to our respondents, the
current average retail price of one gram of ice is approximately HK$200. The
Government Laboratory‟s analysis of seizures suggests that the purity level of
methamphetamines in Hong Kong are relatively high at 95%. However, they have found
a few samples cut with lactose or alum. Moreover, our ice using respondents believe that
the quality of ice on the market at present has declined with retail prices.

      The average wholesale and retail price of MDMA is available only for the last three
years as the drug became increasingly popular during this period. The wholesale price per
tablet have been consistent over the reported period. For 1997 and 1998, the wholesale
price of HK$100 resulted in a street retail price of HK$250. The street retail price
declined slightly in the last year. According to our interviews, however, these prices
appear to have dropped significantly in 2000. The retail dealers report buying tablets at a
cost of HK$40 to HK$50 and selling at HK$100 to HK$150. Seizure analysis indicate
that the vast majority of MDMA is not pure. Tablets are usually in “weights of 0.3-0.4
grams, containing on average of 0.10-0.15 grams of MDMA.HC1 with a range of
0.05-0.27grams. Other phenethylamine type compounds similar to MDMA‟s structure,
such as MDA, MDEA, MBDB are seen less frequently. Adulterants have included
amphetamine, methamphetamine, methaqualone, ketamine, phenobarbitone, and
caffeine” (Hong Kong Government Laboratories 2000:12). There have been instances of
tablets containing no MDMA content, but were merely crushed chalk or panadol.

      Table 3-3 provides the retail prices in of the major drugs in Hong Kong along with
three basic commodities. These prices are reported for 1999, and are shown in local and
US currency rates (HK$7.8 = US$1). With the exception of a stick of cannabis, all of
the retail prices of the major drugs are significantly higher than the price of one bowl of
rice, a bottle of the popular San Miguel beer, and a pair of athletic shoes.

                                       Table 3-3
           Retail Prices of Different Drugs and Basic Commodities in 1999

                                            Price in    Price in
                                            HK          US
                                            Dollars     Dollars
       Heroin (per gram)                    $386.00     $49.49
       Herbal Cannabis (per gram)           $50.00      $6.41
       Cocaine (per gram)                   $1,350.00   $173.08
       Ice (per gram)                       $440.00     $56.41
       MDMA (per tablets)                   $227.00     $29.10

       Basic Commodities
       1 Bowl of White Long Grain Rice $5.00            $0.64
       1 Bottle of San Miguel Beer     $6.90            $0.88
       1 Pair of Sports Shoe           $150.00          $19.23

Organizational Competition
      Despite our efforts, we were unable to locate any wholesalers or distributors, and
consequently, do not know if there is any organizational competition at this level. Police
sources suggest that, at this level, there does not appear to be any competition among
different groups selling heroin, ice, cannabis, ecstasy or ketamine. Authorities believe
that the principal traffickers are investing in drugs that are currently popular in the market
rather than restricting themselves to one particular product.

        As described in the last two chapters, the demand for X and K have been on the
rise, and this popularity is not solely generated by a trendy youth culture but also by the
rise and abundance of dance clubs in the entertainment districts. Triad affiliated
investors and managers, have seized upon the dance club scene as the newest capitalist
venture. They have not had such an opportunity since pirated VCDs (vigorously pursued
by law enforcement) and the real estate boom (which has declined over the last two
years). While club operators may not necessarily be directly investing and turning profits
from the drug sales within their clubs, they are clearly profitting from the large numbers
of youth who attend with the one of the newest clubs having an estimated 700 to 800
“guests” on the first night, entrance fees, and refreshment charges. The club operators‟
colleagues, who belong to the same triad group, receive not only part of the club‟s profits
for protection but also from drug sales. The group then provides the network for the drug
dance club scene, but it is individuals within but not acting on the part of the group who
are generating profits.

       This type of organization seems conducive to competition, but directly for retail
drug selling, but for “providing protection.” Yet there is a very clear need for investors,
managers and the security group to strike a balance. Triad bouncers must try to keep the
operation “respectable” to avoid potential violence among triad groups who want to gain
a foothold or get into trouble while partying. Clearly triad bouncers and investors do not

want violence on or near their establishment for at least two reasons. First, investors and
managers do not want “trouble” (competition, violence) because this brings unwanted
police intervention and pressure (e.g., stepping up license checks, undercover operations).
Ultimately authorities have the ability to close down the dance club. Second, they also
recognize that certain customers will be turned off or frightened if there is competition
and violence. Their clientele is not restricted to other triad members. Importantly, some
of the users interviewed for this study report staying away from particular dance clubs
because of fights between triad members.

Barriers to Entry
      Based on discussions with the police, users and retail sellers and field observations,
violence does not appear to be connected to the operation of the drug market at the
wholesale or retail level. There appears to be relatively clear notions about who and
where individuals and groups can operate and sell whether the drug is heroin, ice,
cannabis, ecstasy or ketamine. This is due partly to the fact that there is no one
dominating firm and instead, a system in which members of particular triad groups find
business opportunities with other like minded individuals. It does not matter whether the
individual belongs to a different or rival triad group. In the words of one police officer,
“it‟s like a joint venture for making money. It‟s really all about making money.”

     There are reports of violence at dance clubs, however, these events have been
connected to the efforts of some triad groups to situate themselves into the “protection”
system of particular clubs. The violence is not directly related to competition for retail
drug selling. Drug selling, instead, is considered part of the larger “package” or “job” of
providing security. These triad disputes sometimes result in retaliatory assaults, however,
they are relatively quickly and efficiently resolved through negotiations between the
leader‟s of the security group and managers and the group wanting to move in. Why?
The police are quick to intervene with heavy pressure when disputes result in violence.
The major stakeholders of the dance club may be directly pressured by the police to
resolve the “problem” and/or suffer stepped up surveillance on their enterprise.
Alternatively, the stakeholders may take the initiative to settle the “problem” before the
police intervene. While we do not have sufficient data on the outcome of these
negotiations, we do know that arrangements have been made for the “prospective”
security group to provide their services during certain hours of the day (for example,
during karaoke time). Other reports of violence have been related to drinking related
behaviors (e.g., staredowns, etc.) by triad and non-triad affiliated individuals.

Wages and Labor Supply
      . Although the economy took a dive during the mid-1990s with the Asian financial
crisis, it has picked up considerably since then. The unemployment rate, however, has
risen over the last five years, most notably in 1998 and 1999 reporting a rate of 4.7% and
6.5% respectively.

        Based on the data collected, drug traffickers appear to view this as a “get rick
quick” business opportunity. As noted earlier, triad affiliated individuals join together
(whether with members of their own group or another group) for the explicit purpose of
exploiting a potentially lucrative opportunity. The group may disband after a single
venture or may pursue another venture, possibly drug related. At the street level, this is
certainly the case, and the current dance drug scene indicates that the business is not
solely about drugs, but the “protection” business. While we have not been able to

uncover the actual wages of those employed in the business, we do know that those who
are put into the most vulnerable job of transporting as couriers (in wholesale and retail
packages) receive a very limited amount, usually less than HK$5,000, although the
average daily wage of a male manual laborer was HK$606 in 1999. This “wage” for
transporting drugs, however, seems little compared to the penalties attached to drugs like
heroin and ice. This wage also seems insignificant compared to the debts they owe to
loan sharks (who are affiliated or the same triad members requesting them to take the
courier job) and the harm they can inflict.

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                               Appendix A: Methodology

      This case study is drawn from numerous primary and secondary data sources.
Among the secondary data sources, we first collected all known government (such as the
Government Laboratory, Narcotics Bureau, Narcotics Division) and non-government
reports (outreach and treatment facilities), fact sheets, statistics and other relevant
documents pertaining the use or trafficking of drugs in Hong Kong. Scholarly journal
articles and books were also reviewed for this study. While the majority of these data
covered the last five years, where appropriate, we drew from sources dating prior to 1995.
Only those documents cited in the report are noted in the reference section (but are

    We also collected news reports on drugs (using, trafficking, policy, etc). from the
most widely read newspapers and magazines in Hong Kong :
          South China Morning Post (English)
          Apple Daily (Chinese)
          Next Magazine (Chinese)
          Eastweek Magazine (Chinese)

     We were unable to conduct a school survey due to the examination and summer
months, and the length of time required to gain access to the school. We were able,
however, to use the data set from Dr. Jeffrey Day‟s 1995/96 school survey, “The Health
Related Behaviour Survey in Hong Kong, Attitudes and Behaviour of 3,207 Hong Kong
adolescents Concerning Health Related Matters, 1996. These data combined with the
Narcotic‟s Division school survey in 1996 represent the most current school data
available. At present, we have been funded to conduct a school survey (of about 8,000
students) on the issue of psychotropic drugs in 2000/2001. The government has also
recently funded a large scale school survey to be administered to 81,000 during 2001.

     The primary data set for this study entailed several components. First, we conducted
focus groups with treatment, outreach workers, teachers, and district fight crime
committees (a community council comprising different sectors and members of a district
or neighborhood) using a standardized schedule of open ended questions. Two field
workers conducted the focus groups in Chinese, taped, and translated for analysis.

          Treatment Workers
           The Society for the Rehabilitation of Offenders, HK) Caritas Wong Yui
             Nam Centre
           PS33

          Outreach Workers from nearly all districts in Hong Kong (excludes outlying
           HK Christian Services (Yuen Long Outreaching Social Work Team)
           HK Playground Association (Wan Chai & North Point)
           Chinese YMCA (Tsing Yi)
           Chinese YMCA (Chai Wan & Shau Kei Wan)
           Yang Memorial Methodist Social Services (Yau Tsim)

             Yang Memorial Methodist Social services (Shatin)
             Evangelical Lutheran Church of HK (North District)
             Boys & Girls Clubs Association of HK (Kwun Tong)
             HK YWCA (Western District & Central)
             Caritas (Aberdeen)
             Caritas (Tuen Mun)
             Caritas (Wong Tai Sin)
             HK Federation of Youth Groups (Tsuen Wan)

       District Fight Crime Committee
          Southern District
          Tuen Mun District
          Secondary School Teachers Individual interviews were also conducted
              using a standardized set of open-ended questions but modified according to
              the agency‟s role in drug market in Hong Kong.

          Hong Kong Police
             1. Narcotics Bureau
             2. Regional Level (Hong Kong Island, Kowloon West)
             3. District (Yaumatei, Tsim Sha Tsui, Wan Chai, North Point, Tuen Mun

          Government Chemist


          Overseas Law Enforcement (DEA, British Customs, Canadian Customs)

     Field observations were conducted in the following locales:
          -Discos in Wan Chai and Tsim Sha Tsiu
          -Heroin transactions in Wan Chai, Yaumatei, Chai Wan, Mongkok
          -Outside a Methadone Clinic in High Street (Western District)

     We were unable to collect data directly from those involved in supplying the drug
trade, and unfortunately, we have had to rely principally on police information in this
regard. We were only able to interview one dealer of ecstasy and ketamine who
considered himself to be a relatively “small time” trafficker. He did not use ecstasy or
ketamine himself. We were able to acquire data on retail sales of drugs in Hong Kong
through our interviews with users. The final set of interviews were conducted with 35
users of the major drugs on the Hong Kong market today. 24 respondents in our sample
were obtained through treatment agency referrals. Another 11 were referred from street
sources known to the fieldworkers. The criteria for the interviews were:

          a) 16 years old or above
          b) Have used drugs (heroin, ice, ecstasy or ketamine) at least three times with
             the latest time within the last 6 months

A standardized open ended interview schedule was used. Interviews were conducted in
Cantonese, tape recorded, and translated.


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