Vow to step up fight against drug smuggling

Syndicates use Hong Kong's extensive logistics network to transit illegal drugs to Asia-Pacific countries, Secretary for Security Chris Tang Ping-keung said, as he vowed to plug loopholes and combat trafficking crimes in the city at an international customs summit.

The Regional Customs High-Level Drug Enforcement Forum was attended by more than 100 representatives from over 40 delegations and experts from the World Customs Organization at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai yesterday - the first time the physical event was hosted by Hong Kong Customs.

"Your presence here is a clear sign that Hong Kong is back on the world stage and the world is also back to normal," Tang told delegates. "With the relaxation of travel restrictions and recovery of global supply chains, a surge in illegal drug trade was anticipated and hence immediate attention should be paid to the latest trend."

Tang said drugs are smuggled into Hong Kong by air, sea and mail.

"Being an international aviation and maritime center as well as a logistics hub, our well-developed transportation network coupled with the highly efficient customs clearance policy have increased the risk of drug transshipment," he said.

"It's not uncommon that drugs smuggled into Hong Kong are indeed for supply to other jurisdictions in the Asia-Pacific region and other places," he added.

But Tang said the SAR strives to combat drug trafficking activities, adding: "We are tough on drug criminals."

He said Customs has purchased advanced examination devices - such as mobile X-ray machines with artificial intelligence functions - to step up drug detection.

Tang said the city's comprehensive anti-drug laws, intelligence exchange between Customs and police, as well as the cooperation by citizens and the private sector are the bedrocks of drug enforcement work.

"As drug trafficking activities in Hong Kong are cross-border by nature, cooperation with other regional and international law enforcement agencies is instrumental to the sharing of useful information and analysis on drug trafficking trends and targeted enforcement," he said.

His remarks were echoed by Secretary for Justice Paul Lam Ting-kwok, who said the SAR has signed bilateral mutual legal assistance agreements with 21 foreign jurisdictions including Belgium, Denmark, Indonesia, India, Poland and Sweden, to be able to provide assistance to one another in investigating and prosecuting criminal offenses overseas.

In the event's closing speech, Customs commissioner Louise Ho Pui-shan said her department will host workshops in the third quarter this year to strengthen officers' anti-narcotics efforts.