Despite stiff penalties, Hong Kongers, especially young people, are illegally importing hundreds of kilograms of cannabis from Canada and the US, say local officials.
From July 1 and November 9 alone, customs officers at Hong Kong International Airport confiscated 380kg of marijuana and cannabis products, nearly 90% of which originated from Canada or the US. Authorities also seized 122kg of cannabis products in the first half of the year for a total of more than 500kg. In 2019, 266kg of cannabis was seized, and 141kg in 2018.
In the past five months officials say five secondary school students, aged 15 to 17, were arrested for allegedly collecting packages containing cannabis, calling the trend “worrying”.
Law enforcement estimates of a “street value” for cannabis fluctuates from about HK$12-18 a gram, or about $2-3 Canadian. One Canadian dollar is currently worth about HK$5.89.
In January of this year, one shipment of 70kg of dried cannabis was found in a shipment from Toronto. The shipment was labeled as loudspeakers, but upon inspection officers found four packages of cannabis wrapped in aluminium foil. Each of the 128 packages weighed 550 grams for a total of about 70.4kg.
In April, Hong Kong police made the biggest cannabis seizure in the city’s history was 580kg found hidden in cargo shipped from Canada. According to police, the cargo departed Montreal on February 3 and arrived in Hong Kong on April 5 via the Netherlands, hidden among a shipment of plastic waste. Two Hong Kongers and a Canadian living in Hong Kong were arrested.
In September, two Hong Kong teens were arrested after 1kg of cannabis found in airmailed parcel from Canada.
“We believe some of the drug was for local consumption and the rest was destined for Southeast Asian countries,” an official was quoted by the South China Morning Post.
In Canada, several large raids, primarily in Ontario, have been reported to be connected to international criminal organizations. In several of those raids and arrests, numerous names involved have been from Southeast Asia.
In 2019, concerns from the Hong Kong government caused Canadian customs to agree to share intelligence especially on particular criminal syndicates.
In Hong Kong, trafficking cannabis can carry a maximum penalty of life imprisonment and a HK$5 million fine.