LCQ1: Curbing youth committing drug-related offences
The number of persons arrested for drug-related offences has been on the rise in the past two years. In 2021, the total number of arrestees for such offences rose by 20 per cent as compared with that in 2020, and the number of arrested young people aged below 21 even increased by 32 per cent as compared with that in 2020. Some members of the public have expressed concerns about the downward trend of the ages of the persons involved in such offences. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) of the number of young people arrested for alleged drug-related offences in each of the past five years, with a breakdown by the age group to which they belonged (i.e. aged 19 to 20, 16 to 18, and 15 or below);
(2) whether it has plans to formulate new policies and measures to curb youth committing drug-related offences; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and
(3) regarding the persons who exploit young people for drug trafficking, whether it will step up efforts in appealing to the courts for enhanced sentencing by invoking section 56A of the Dangerous Drugs Ordinance (Cap. 134); if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?
(1) In the past five years, the numbers of youth aged under 21 arrested on suspicion of having committed drug offences are as follows:
(2) and (3) In order to prevent young people from taking drugs and committing drug-related crimes, we have been strengthening publicity and education in different aspects through different platforms. Apart from the prevention of drug use, our anti-drug publicity also reminds the youth not to commit drug-related crimes and their dire consequences.
The Narcotics Division (ND) of the Security Bureau and the law enforcement agencies (LEAs) have been disseminating anti-drug messages to different target groups, especially adolescents and young adults, through various anti-drug publicity campaigns, including the greater use of social media and online platforms.
Recent examples include the launch of a new anti-drug publicity theme by the ND in September 2022, including an anti-drug logo and a slogan "Let's Stand Firm. Knock Drugs Out", as well as anti-drug ambassadors Agent Don't and Agent Hope, with a view to injecting new impetus into the anti-drug movement and demonstrating the determination and strength to fight against drugs together. We will also step up publicity on the control of cannabidiol (CBD), reminding the public that CBD may contain harmful substances, and will be listed as a dangerous drug under the Laws of Hong Kong from February 1, 2023.
From September to November this year, the Hong Kong Police Force (HKPF) launched the "Anti-drugs Campaign", which is a large-scale territory-wide publicity campaign that highlights the harm of drugs and drug trafficking to the youth by making use of innovation and technology. Meanwhile, the HKPF also launched a series of mini-films and anti-drug promotional animation with an emphasis on saying "No" to drugs through a light-hearted approach that appeals to the young people. In October, Hong Kong Customs also set up anti-drug booths in a secondary school to provide information relating to drugs. Among them, there was an information kiosk with a scale designed to indicate the sentencing of drug offences. Simulated drugs of different weights were used to show the related court sentencing guidelines. Through the scale, students could better visualise the serious harms and consequences of exposure to drugs and participation in drug trafficking activities. We also collaborate with key opinion leaders and online media to launch anti-drug videos to publicise the harm of drugs to the youth.
The ND implements the Healthy School Programme with a Drug Testing Component in secondary schools targeting young people and students to help them develop healthy lifestyles, build positive values, strengthen their abilities to resist drugs and stress, and promote a drug-free school culture. The ND also implements the Beat Drugs with Sports programme, which promotes healthy living and drug-free messages on campus through the participation of secondary school students in organising sports and/or health-related activities, as well as supporting student-athletes to participate in sports competitions. The ND has been actively encouraging more schools to participate in the above two programmes through maintaining liaison with school sponsoring bodies and relevant stakeholders. In the 2022/23 school year, the number of schools participating in the two programmes has risen to a total of 272, accounting for more than half of all secondary schools in Hong Kong. The ND has also commissioned non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to provide anti-drug preventive education to upper-primary and international school students, using a variety of learning modes and interactive drama to instill anti-drug knowledge, including the serious consequences of committing drug-related crimes. The ND also commissioned an NGO to operate a mobile exhibition vehicle for school visits. Through mobile exhibitions, as well as experiential and educational activities, it provided anti-drug education to students so as to strengthen and fortify their resolve to stay away from drugs.
The Beat Drugs Fund provides funding to different groups and organisations (such as NGOs) to carry out preventive education and publicity projects targeting various target groups. Among them, disseminating the serious consequences of drug trafficking activities amongst young people is one of the priority areas of the funding scheme.
In addition, the revamping works of the Hong Kong Jockey Club Drug InfoCentre (HKJC DIC) located in Admiralty will be completed within this month and the HKJC DIC will be re-opened to the public in December this year. As a hub for anti-drug education and publicity activities, the HKJC DIC will launch events such as exhibitions and sharing sessions on promoting healthy lifestyles among the youth, as well as visits and anti-drug talks for students, parents and anti-drug partners. The revamped HKJC DIC is equipped with a variety of interactive multimedia facilities to enhance the visit experience, including interactive videos on juvenile drug trafficking, and video installations showing drug harm to body.
In recent years, the number of drug-related social media posts and their viewership on the Internet have substantially increased, some even encourage drug use, provide inaccurate information on drugs or are suspected to be related to drug dealing through social media. In view of this situation, the ND has been using our "narcotics.divisionhk" Facebook and Instagram pages to remind the youth to be more vigilant and to spread anti-drug messages. We will also continue to promote the 24-hour hotline 186 186 and the instant messaging service 98 186 186 to encourage assistance seeking.
On law enforcement, the LEAs will continue to target the sources of drug supply by blocking illegal imports of dangerous drugs, stepping up patrols of drug black spots, and taking other measures to combat drug trafficking.
The LEAs also regularly conduct online patrols on the Internet, including social media, to detect drug-related activities. If there is any suspicion, they will take the initiative to follow up appropriately. In response to the inaccurate information on drugs, the Action Committee Against Narcotics has issued letters to operators of social media and websites that are widely used in Hong Kong. The letter appeals to the operators to practice corporate social responsibility through collaboration in stopping illicit drug transactions or the flow of relevant illegal information on the social media and websites operated by them, so that they will not become a hotbed of incorrect drug information.
On the exploitation of students and young people for drug trafficking, the LEAs have been striving to track down drug syndicates that exploit students and young people. For stronger deterrence, the LEAs are also active in seeking more severe sentence on persons using minors for drug trafficking according to Section 56A of the Dangerous Drugs Ordinance (Cap. 134). Since 2013, there have been a total of 22 cases involving the using of minors for drug trafficking which the LEAs have successfully applied to the courts for a more severe sentence according to the Ordinance. A recent successful example involves a 55-year-old man who was charged with conspiracy to manufacture methylamphetamine and using his 15-year-old daughter for purchasing drug manufacturing equipment in 2019. In June 2022, the HKPF successfully invoked Section 56A of the Ordinance to increase the sentence by one year to a total imprisonment term of 29 years.
Ends/Wednesday, November 16, 2022
Issued at HKT 16:49
Issued at HKT 16:49