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Drugs Lure Hong Kong Youth Across China Border

gs. Ten out of 10 do that." With police in Hong Kong police frequently checking clubs there, Shenzhen has become a better choice, Ah Yan said. As well as a more relaxed attitude to drugs it also offers bigger and more modern venues and an under-age entrance policy that is virtually non-existent.

Although this Shenzhen club has a heavy presence of bouncers and security guards, in uniform and plain clothes, Ah Yan said they are the ones who supply her and her friends their favourite drugs, ketamine and ecstasy.

Using drugs over the border is a trend that is increasingly worrying social workers in Hong Kong. According to official figures, the number of Hong Kong people arrested for using drugs in southern Guangdong province, where Shenzhen lies, rose from 191 in 2004 to 336 last year.

Over the same period, the number of people under 21 arrested in Hong Kong for drugs offences fell by 24 percent to just over 1,000. Chu Fung, project manager for a programme called PlaySafe aimed at raising awareness of the health risks of drugs and unsafe sex at Hong Kong clubs, said going north for drugs began with the rave culture that came in from the West.

"That's when party drugs began to get popular among the youths here. They follow it because they believe it's a new fashion, they don't see it as drug abuse," he said. "Because of the police crackdown on Hong Kong discos," Chu added, "many of them go to China to take drugs.

The biggest challenge for us is to reach those youths." That has also been reflected in the popularity of certain drugs. In 1997, the year Hong Kong returned to Chinese sovereignty, there were a recorded 1,855 heroin abusers. Last year -- according to official government figures -- that had fallen to just 51.

Conversely, the number of ketamine abusers soared over the same period from fewer than six to 1,845 -- it is now the most popular illegal substance -- and ecstasy has underg
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