Following is the full text of the speech by the Secretary for Security, Mr Ambrose SK Lee, at the 11th Asian Professional Security Association Conference today (November 18):
Dato' Haji Rahmat Ismail, President of Asian Professional Security Association, ladies and gentlemen,
I am delighted to be able to join you today at this 11th Asian Professional Security Association Conference, and would like to thank the Asian Professional Security Association, Hong Kong Chapter for inviting me to the event.
Whenever "security" is mentioned these days, there is the impression that it means measures designed to tackle terrorism. The 24-hour news channels have brought the horrendous scenes of death and destruction to the homes of the average citizen, and it appears that we are ever so close to these terrorist atrocities. However, Hong Kong is lucky in that the risk of a terrorist strike has remained low for many years.
We have a deep tradition of religious freedom and mutual respect amongst different ethnic minorities in our community, and I believe that this is one of the pillars of continued stability and prosperity of Hong Kong. On the other hand, while we treasure the freedoms and openness of our society, we are determined to make it as difficult as possible for terrorists to exploit the facilities and ease of our systems.
The people that make the difference
Today I want to address something more fundamental in terms of security. Hong Kong has long been, and remains, a safe city with low crime rate. We have an effective and efficient police force, and they are complemented by brilliant colleagues in other departments, like the Fire Services, Customs and Excise Service, Immigration Service, Correctional Service and the Government Flying Service. At the same time our security industry has evolved over the years and plays an important role in many of Hong Kong's success stories.
Let me give you some figures. By the end of September, we have more than 860 companies holding valid licences to conduct security and related businesses. They provide security guarding services and armoured transportation services. They also provide professional support in the installation and maintenance of security systems. There are also more than 240,000 persons holding valid Security Personnel Permits, which will entitle them to be legally employed as security guards of various categories and as technical personnel in security devices and systems.
In the early days, it was mainly the watchmen and guards. To regulate the industry, we enacted the Watchman Ordinance in 1956. With the development and expansion of various aspects of security services in the use of science and technology, the Government took a close look at the industry and a review was carried out in the early 1990s. After extensive consultation with the industry and the general public, the Security and Guarding Service Ordinance was enacted in December 1994 to provide for a licensing scheme to regulate the security industry. Under the scheme, a person will require a Security Personnel Permit, and likewise a company will require a licence, before they may provide security services in Hong Kong. The Security Personnel Permit system is to ensure that the person holding the permit is a fit and proper person to provide the security services to their clients.
With the introduction of the Security and Guarding Services Ordinance, the Government established the Security and Guarding Services Industry Authority (SGSIA) in June 1995. The main functions of the Authority are to consider and determine applications for licences, as well as to specify the criteria and conditions for issuing Security Personnel Permits. The Authority also holds regular meetings with representatives of the security industry, and consults the industry on licensing and other relevant regulatory requirements.
Upgrading of Skills
Given the continuing evolution of the security industry, in tandem with the development of new technologies and the emergence of new threats and challenges, the Security and Guarding Services Industry Authority has conducted several reviews on the policies and requirements of issuing licences and permits, with the aim of maintaining a high standard for the industry.
A "scheme for quality assurance" was introduced to ensure the standard of training courses. To further promote the adoption of best practices in the industry, the Authority is actively considering the introduction of refresher training courses for incumbent security personnel permit holders. We attach great emphasis on the training of security personnel and on the upgrading of their skills.
The theme of the 11th Asian Professional Security Conference is "Competing Wise - Steering Fusion of Security Management and Technology." We all recognise that the use of technology and modern management practices are indispensable in all aspects of society, and the security industry is no exception. We all strive for a proactive approach in tackling anticipated problems, as well as timely, effective and efficient response to unanticipated situations.
The main asset of our security industry is a trained and reliable workforce. We need an environment conducive to the maintenance of professionalism and life-long learning. We need to achieve this through exchanges with our international partners and friends, and through the understanding and incorporation of best practices from overseas.
Hong Kong is one of the few places in this region that has the legal framework and a formalised set-up in regulating and ensuring the standard of the security industry. We do believe that we have been going down the right path. Indeed, the Government has seen it fit in recent years in 'outsourcing' to the private sector some of the security services which were traditionally performed by civil servants. The aviation security service at the Hong Kong International Airport is a typical example, and private security companies are now looking after the general security and management of most of the government offices and premises.
A globalised world means globalised problems and globalised solutions. Long gone were the days where individual practitioners of a profession would hold dear to their own secret tips and tools of the trade. We need to share and work together in combating crimes and all kinds of international threats, in order to develop the most appropriate response to new problems. We are counting on the spirit of cooperation in our pursuit of a better and more effective security industry. The meetings and exchanges that will be held in these two days are no doubt one such fine opportunity where we shall learn and benefit from one another.
Last but not the least, I would like to welcome you again to Hong Kong, and wish that your stay in Hong Kong would be a most pleasant and fruitful experience. Thank you.
Ends/Thursday, November 18, 2004