The Social Capital of Young Drug User-Dealers Amid the Changing Drug Market in Hong Kong


Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

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Awarding Institution
Award date21 Dec 2017


Triad societies such as Sun Yee On, Wo Shing Wo, and 14K have a long history of running drug dealing businesses in the local drug market in Hong Kong. Street-level drug dealing is controlled by local triad bosses. Over the past decade, the drug market of Hong Kong has changed, and the number of young drug users involved in drug dealing activities has multiplied. The current study provides a detailed account of the social capital of young drug user-dealers in Hong Kong amid the changing drug market, and how the young drug user-dealers can participate and succeed within the drug dealing network based on a wide variety of samples of young drug user-dealers, ranging from couriers of drug dealing gangs to mid-level drug bosses in Hong Kong. Through the lens of social capital, the present study attempts to explore the relationship and collaboration between young drug user-dealers and criminal organisations.

The current study reveals that the changes in the Hong Kong drug market and triad societies undergoing the process of disorganisation provide the fertile soil for young drug user-dealers to easily establish their drug dealing businesses. The findings of this study also verify that young drug user-dealer have different types of social capital. Young drug user-dealers’ gangs are bound by bonding social capital, trust, and the norm of reciprocity present amongst members of young drug user-dealer gangs. The bonding social capital can facilitate the solidary of drug gangs and enable the members to cooperate over a long period of time. The young drug user-dealer gangs also exhibit bridging social capital that enables young drug user-dealers to gain access to a horizontal network with other friendly drug gangs and local triad gangs. Thus, horizontal relations assist the young drug user-dealers to gain resources, information, and protection. Furthermore, linking social capital enables young drug user-dealers’ vertical linking with the Chinese drug manufacturer, big bosses, and brokers through the network of senior triad members. These vertical relations help young drug user-dealers to grasp the stable drug supply in its best quality and cheapest price.

Drug abusers are often described as passive, irrational, and victims of their living environment, especially the young drug user. However, this study found that the young drug user-dealers in Hong Kong, who have bonding, bridging, and linking social capital, can climb upward to be mid-level drug bosses in the hierarchy of drug dealing operations in Hong Kong.