LCQ3: Ensuring public order in frontier closed area
Under the law, any person who enters a frontier closed area (FCA) must hold a closed area permit (CAP) issued by the Police and Sha Tau Kok Town is now covered by FCA. Some residents and traders in the area have relayed to me that the CAP requirement not only causes nuisance to the residents concerned but also hinders economic development there, leaving them not being able to see any future, like "prisoners on death row". They therefore urge the authorities to excise Sha Tau Kok Town from FCA gradually or completely. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) of the number of various types of crimes that occurred in Sha Tau Kok Town, the year-on-year changes in the number of visitor arrivals and departures through Sha Tau Kok Control Point, and the respective numbers of CAP applications for entering Sha Tau Kok Town received and rejected by the Police (with a breakdown by reason of application), in each of the past five years;
(2) given that there are a number of scenic spots with distinctive features in Sha Tau Kok Town, whether the authorities will relax the CAP requirement in order to facilitate clansmen to visit relatives, as well as tourists and members of the public from outside the area to visit there for sight-seeing or to take a boat at the public pier there to go to Lai Chi Wo, which is within the boundary of the Hong Kong Global Geopark of China; whether the authorities will consider relaxing the land sale conditions for the land in that area by allowing those who do not hold a CAP issued for local residents to purchase properties there, so that such persons can have more choices when purchasing properties; and
(3) as the authorities indicated in 2015 that the proposal to relax the FCA restriction of Sha Tau Kok Town and its implementation arrangements required a careful examination, whether the authorities have conducted such an examination; if so, of the examination progress, as well as the factors to be considered and the data obtained; if they have not conducted the examination, whether they will consider formulating an implementation timetable for relaxing the FCA restriction?
Our consolidated reply to the three parts of the question is as follows:
The frontier closed area (FCA) is an integral part of the package of coordinated tactics for effective boundary control. Section 36 of the Public Order Ordinance (Cap 245) (the Ordinance) provides that the Chief Executive may, where he reasonably believes that it is necessary for the protection of national security or public safety, or the protection of public order or public health, by order declare any area or place to be a closed area. The FCA, declared under this provision, is an integral part of the security measures for maintaining integrity of our boundary with the Mainland, and for combating illegal immigration and other cross-boundary criminal activities. The coverage of the FCA is specified in the Schedule of the Frontier Closed Area Order (Cap. 245 Sub. Leg. A) made under section 36 of the Ordinance. According to the Schedule, Sha Tau Kok Town is covered by the FCA.
Under section 38 of the Ordinance, any person entering or leaving the FCA must hold a closed area permit (CAP) issued by the Police. Moreover, section 37 of the Ordinance provides that a permit so issued shall be subject to such conditions as the Police think fit, and may be cancelled by the person by whom it is issued at any time. The Police control access to the FCA through the issue of CAPs based on the applicants' actual needs to enter the FCA. In general, the following types of persons may be considered as having such needs:
(i) persons who live or work within the FCA;
(ii) persons who need to transit the FCA for travelling to and from their places of residence;
(iii) persons who need to maintain a traditional link with the local communities within the FCA because of family or historical ties;
(iv) persons who visit relatives or friends in the FCA;
(v) persons who need to liaise with local rural committees within the FCA;
(vi) persons who own property within the FCA；
(vii) persons who are appointed by property owners to take care of property within the FCA;
(viii) persons who need to enter the FCA for work or business; and
(ix) students who study at schools within the FCA as well as parents and guardians who escort them.
In the past five years, the Police have issued an average of about 125 000 CAPs per year. Detailed figures are at Table I. In addition, according to the Immigration Department, there were on average about 3.19 million departures and arrivals through Sha Tau Kok Control Point in each of the past five years. Detailed figures are at Table II. Regarding the overall crime figures in Sha Tau Kok District as indicated by police information, there were on average about 70 cases in each of the past five years, including miscellaneous thefts, criminal damage and burglary. Detailed figures are at Table III. Besides, an annual average of about 89 illegal immigrants were arrested in the past five years. Detailed figures are at Table IV. The Police do not maintain a breakdown on CAP applications received and rejected as mentioned in the question.
To prevent excessive presence of people and activities in the closed area and taking into account its development and security need, for sites within the Sha Tau Kok Closed Area which are sold publicly for residential use, the Government has adopted since 1997 lease conditions under which the relevant residential units can only be sold to buyers who hold valid Sha Tau Kok Resident CAPs. Such an arrangement ties in with the implementation of the FCA policy by avoiding increased risks of illegal immigration and other cross-boundary crimes due to sudden surge in population and activities. At present, the Government has no plan to change the arrangement.
To reduce the FCA to the minimum necessary for ensuring public order, the Government substantially reduced the land coverage of the FCA from about 2 800 hectares at the time to about 400 hectares via a three-stage reduction exercise carried out from 2008 to 2016, thereby releasing 2 400 hectares of land for various uses. Following completion of the exercise in 2016, local residents and members of the public enjoy free access to the excised areas. Currently, the reduced FCA covers the Police's boundary patrol road and the land to its north, border-crossing facilities, Sha Tau Kok Town, Starling Inlet and parts of Mai Po.
As regards the proposal of relaxing the FCA restriction of Sha Tau Kok Town and allowing the use of Sha Tau Kok Pier by members of the public from outside area, we consider that it should be examined in detail, especially on whether border security requirements can be met. The prime consideration for keeping Sha Tau Kok Town within the FCA is that there is no physical barrier separating the town from the Mainland along the border. Moreover, Chung Ying Street in Sha Tau Kok Town is the only place in Hong Kong where there is no border control facility but cross-border movement of people and goods is allowed. Therefore, from a border security point of view, there is a need to maintain the FCA restriction of Sha Tau Kok Town.
In fact, it takes some time for the Government to observe the implementation subsequent to the FCA reduction completed just last year. The Government will closely monitor the effectiveness and impact of the reduction exercise, including law and order as well as movement of people in the excised areas, for providing reference in future planning. At present, we have no plan to open up Sha Tau Kok Closed Area.
Thank you, President.
Ends/Wednesday, May 24, 2017
Issued at HKT 15:55
Issued at HKT 15:55