Hong Kong customs seized a record haul of cocaine at its international
airport this week, foiling two passengers who tried to smuggle
58 million Hong Kong dollars (US$7.5 million) worth of the drug in their luggage.
One 35-year-old man arrived Tuesday from São Paulo, Brazil, after transiting in Beijing with 48 kilograms (105 pounds) of cocaine wrapped in quilts inside his suitcases, the largest amount
ever seized from an individual passenger in the city's history. A 22-year-old female
traveler on the same flight
was also discovered to be carrying 12 kilograms of cocaine inside false compartments of four backpacks stowed in her suitcase. They two were arrested and charged with drug trafficking.
Not including Tuesday's cases, customs officers have seized more than HK$50 million worth of cocaine at the airport this year, found sewn into jacket
linings or stuffed into shopping bags and laptop cases. On Monday, airport customs officers found about HK$1.92 million worth of the drug inside layers of silicone rubber, which were in turn tucked inside handbags, two cushions and a wall map shipped by air mail from Uruguay.
Smugglers have tried other tactics, including joining holiday
tours to New Zealand from the airport, to try to reduce their chances of detection. Out of about a dozen cases of cocaine smuggling caught at the airport this year, all flights originated in South America, with about a third embarking from Brazil.
联合国毒品和犯罪问题办公室(United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime)今年在一份报告
for drug trafficking in Hong Kong is life imprisonment, considerably
lighter than elsewhere
in the region, including mainland
China and Singapore, where the crime can result in the death penalty.
研究本地毒品使用状况的香港大学(University of Hong Kong)副教授谢树基(Samson Tse)说，我听一线社会工作者讲，可卡因现在非常便宜，相比以前人们现在更能买得起，而且会显得时尚、年轻，是件很酷的事。
These seizures come as the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime warned in a report this year that East Asia and Southeast Asia may be at a greater risk for rising cocaine use, thanks to 'the glamour associated with its use and the emergence of more affluent sections of society.'
'I've heard from front-line social workers that cocaine has become really cheap, making it more affordable and also seem kind of fashionable
and youngish and cool,' says Samson Tse, an associate
professor at the University of Hong Kong who has researched local drug use.
The growing affordability, says Mr. Tse, could be accounted for by rising supply as well as greater mixing of the drug with other substances.
Though historically Hong Kong's drug of choice has been heroin, more recently, the number of residents using drugs like ketamine and cocaine has climbed, according to government studies. In a 2011 official government survey, among reported local drug users under age 21, 20% said they used cocaine.
The final destination
of this week's drug haul was unclear, though demand for drugs has been growing across the border in mainland
China. According to Chinese authorities, attempts to smuggle
cocaine into the country from South America also have risen in recent years.
In at least one June case in Hong Kong, an 18-year-old smuggler from Brazil appeared to be bound for the mainland. He was arrested with HK$2 million worth of cocaine at the airport while waiting
to board a ferry to Zhuhai, Guangdong. He was arrested and charged with drug trafficking.