The Hong Kong SAR Government has taken and will continue taking vigorous actions to prevent Hong Kong from being used by migrant smugglers as a stepping stone for human smuggling to other countries.
The assurance was given by a spokesman for the Customs and Excise Department following the apprehension of 26 illegal immigrants from Mainland China in a US-bound container, at Kwai Chung Container Terminal late last (October 18) night.
The case came to light at about 11.10 pm yesterday when Customs officers conducting routine checking of containers at the terminal.
After one of the containers showed positive response to a CO2 detector, the observant officers immediately swang into action and subsequently found a number of people hidden inside the container. A lot of daily necessities, including canned food, drinks and noodles, was also found.
In addition, six movable wooden planks were found at the floor area of the container.
"While such planks were uplifted, it could provide ventilation for the human beings hidden inside," the spokesman said.
The container is scheduled to be shipped to Long Beach, United States on Friday (October 20). The Organised Crime and Triad Bureau of Police is probing the case.
"We have a sound mechanism for checking containers to prevent the smuggling of illicit cargoes, apart from adopting a "risk assessment" system in selecting cargoes for examination.
"The Hong Kong law enforcement departments enjoy excellent co-operation with our overseas counterparts. We regularly exchange intelligence on any suspected illegal activities through designated local liaison officers and established channels," the spokesman said.
He pointed out that among the 11 cases of human smuggling detected in the United States and Canada this year, six were the result of tip-offs from the Hong Kong Customs.
Hong Kong Customs has also sought enhanced co-operation from the trade, including major shipping companies and agents, container terminal operators and the major trade associations, in order to curb the use of containers for the smuggling of human cargo, he added.
"So far, the results are encouraging. We have not received any further report of human smuggling on vessels departing from Hong Kong since April," he said.
Since January this year, Hong Kong Customs has checked over 33,800 outbound containers with a view to curbing human smuggling activities.
End/Thursday, October 19, 2000