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Drug Seizures Up 80 Percent At Hong Kong Airport

Neil Campbell
Neil lives in Canada and writes about society and politics.
Published: July 18, 2023
Hong Kong Airport drug busts are up 80 percent compared to last year.
A file photo of Hong Kong Customs at a press conference after seizing drugs in June of 2021. Hong Kong International Airport drug seizures are up some 80 percent in the first half of 2023 compared to 2022. (Image: ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP via Getty Images)

Hong Kong International Airport is experiencing an 80 percent surge in the volume of illegal narcotics seized from packages and passengers routing through the terminal compared to 2022.

2.3 tonnes worth 970 million HKD ($124 million USD~) of substances were collected in the first six months of the year, South China Morning Post reported on July 18 based on information from the city’s Customs and Excise Department.

Narcotics seizures numbered to 604 total cases.

“For all of 2022, officers found 2.6 tonnes of narcotics valued at HK$1.2 billion in 839 cases at the airport,” SCMP added for comparison.

Airport seizures have been so chronic that they amount to 88 percent of all drug seizures across Hong Kong so far this year.


Sky Fung Wai-ching, Superintendent for the Hong Kong Customs drug bureau, told SCMP that traffickers had also become more sophisticated this year than in prior years.

“Recently, they tend to put a smaller amount of narcotics in each package but mail a larger quantity of parcels [with illegal drugs] into the city to increase their chance of success and also reduce losses in case the substances are seized,” he stated.

SCMP added, “To avoid detection, drug syndicates packed narcotics as food products such as breakfast cereals and tea leaves, or hid them in toys and books.”

2022’s most notable seizure was a massive 447 kilograms of liquid methamphetamine hidden in a trio of electric transformers being imported from Mexico.

Mexico is especially notable because of the well-known cooperation between its drug cartels and the Chinese Communist Party’s United Front Work Department in the ongoing fentanyl crisis plaguing the United States.

Although cannabis seizures amounted to only a quarter of the drugs crime rings attempted to import, Customs data noted that the 572 kilograms captured was a nearly five fold increase over the 98 kilos seized during the same period of 2022.

Attempted cocaine imports were similarly up 208 percent compared to the first half of last year.

Wai-ching also told the outlet that traffickers had resorted to employing mules to pick up and sign for packages, including having them attempt to collect parcels from delivery people on the street.

A July 7 press release on the Customs and Excise Department website chronicled one typical bust involving a 62-year-old woman who attempted to enter Hong Kong from Denmark via Ethiopia with 6.5 kilograms of cocaine.

“During customs clearance, Customs officers found three cans of cookies and three cans of potato chips in her hand-carried plastic bag. Each can of cookies and potato chips contained suspected cocaine, weighing about 6.5kg in total,” the release stated. 

“The woman was subsequently arrested.”

“Under the Dangerous Drugs Ordinance, trafficking in a dangerous drug is a serious offence. The maximum penalty upon conviction is a fine of $5 million and life imprisonment,” Customs warned.

In June, a 38-year-old man was arrested after attempting to enter the city from Brazil via Qatar with 1.7 kilograms of cocaine hidden in a false compartment in his suitcase, a second press release stated.

In May, SCMP reported on a similar seizure where a 66-year-old man from Brazil was arrested after hiding 10 kilograms of liquid cocaine soaked into 17 packages of bedsheets.

“The bedsheets were stained and 40 to 50 per cent heavier than usual, triggering an examination by officers,” the article said.

On July 16, SCMP also reported that Customs scored a massive bust, uncovering some $10.7 million USD worth of methamphetamine hiding inside of air compressors imported from Canada.

“The drug syndicate hid a large amount of methamphetamine inside these heavy-duty air compressors and mixed them with regular compressors. They also used large wooden boxes to carry them,” a spokesperson for Customs said.

They added, “This was all in an attempt to deceive customs that they were shipping legal cargo.”

Three Hong Kong locals aged between 33 and 56, the owner and two staff members of a recycling company, were arrested and charged.

The compressors, which triggered suspicion after showing signs of welding and being shipped with incompatible accessories, had to be cut open with heavy equipment to discover the cache.