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LCQ20: Frontier Closed Area

     Following is a written reply by the Secretary for Security, Mr Ambrose S K Lee, to a question by the Dr Hon Lam Tai-fai in the Legislative Council today (June 1):


     Regarding the reply given by the Secretary for Security ("the Secretary") to my question on the development of the Frontier Closed Area ("FCA") asked at the meeting of this Council on May 18 this year, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) given that the Study on the Enhancement of the Sha Tau Kok Rural Township and Surrounding Areas, which the Planning Department commenced in April 2009, was originally scheduled to be completed in 20 months, of the reasons for the Government's delay in publishing the results of the Study; of the scheduled time to publish the results; whether the areas of the Study covered ways to promote industrial and commercial development as well as increase employment opportunities;

(b) whether it will set a timetable for implementing the aforesaid results of the Study; if it will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(c) given that according to the Secretary's aforesaid reply, to ensure effective management of FCA, any person entering or leaving FCA must possess a valid Closed Area Permit ("CAP"), of the reasons why smuggling and illegal immigration activities in Sha Tau Kok still persist; of a breakdown by year of the number of smuggling and illegal immigration activities in Sha Tau Kok since Hong Kongˇ¦s reunification with China ("the reunification") and how such numbers compare with the relevant territory-wide numbers;

(d) of the number of applications from students or members of uniformed groups to the Police for CAP since the reunification, together with a breakdown by year, type of the group concerned, number of people involved and result of the application, and of the reasons for not approving some of the applications;

(e) whether the Government has any plan to set up a proper boundary control point at Chung Ying Street, taking into consideration its unique physical setting, so as to facilitate the public to enter and leave the area; if it has, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(f) when the Sha Tau Kok pier was formally completed and commissioned for service, as well as its usage rate; of the reasons for the Government completing the construction of the pier first but not opening it up for touristsˇ¦ access to the outer islands in northeastern New Territories;

(g) whether the Government has assessed how the opening up of Sha Tau Kok Town and the Sha Tau Kok pier will affect the Police in continuing to maintain effective boundary management; and of a detailed list of the problems anticipated;

(h) of the total number of Closed Road Permits for access to the Sha Tau Kok FCA issued by the Hong Kong Police Force since the reunification, with a breakdown by year and the average validity period of the permits issued; and whether it has set an upper limit on the number of permits granted each year;

(i) as some villagers have pointed out that the Sha Tau Kok Government Offices Building ("STKGOB") is actually non-existent and the Building is merely a post office, whether the Government can provide the operational details of STKGOB, including the government services provided, the manpower and operational expenditure involved and whether the services concerned include those of the Home Affairs Department; and

(j) whether the Government has assessed the demand of the residents of Sha Tau Kok for a community hall; whether it has any plan to build a community complex in Sha Tau Kok; if it has, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?



     The consolidated reply of the Security Bureau, Development Bureau, Transport and Housing Bureau and the Home Affairs Bureau to the question is as follows:

(a) Given the latest progress, the Planning Department expects that the "Study on the Enhancement of the Sha Tau Kok Rural Township and Surrounding Areas" (the Study) will be completed within this year. As Sha Tau Kok Town will continue to remain within the Frontier Closed Area (FCA), careful consideration should be given to the security angle and the need to balance the interests of various parties when considering improvement to the development of Sha Tau Kok Town. As such, more time is required for the Study. The Study aims to formulate an Integrated Area Improvement Plan to enhance the physical environment of Sha Tau Kok Town and its surrounding area. The Study will also assess the tourism potential of the area, taking into account the FCA status of Sha Tau Kok Town, and examine the possibility of enhancing the connection of Sha Tau Kok Town with other possible tourist attractions in the North East New Territories.

(b) Upon the completion of the Study, the relevant Bureaux and departments will examine the proposals in the Study report, and will consider drawing up an implementation timetable for taking forward the proposals.

(c) As stated in the written reply of May 18, 2011, the effective management of the FCA helps combat illegal immigrants and other cross-boundary criminal activities. The implementation of Closed Area Permit (CAP) in the FCA, including Sha Tau Kok Town and its surrounding area, restricts unnecessary presence of people and activities in the FCA. From the perspective of the existing physical setting, the Starling Inlet provides no physical barrier to delineate the boundary between Hong Kong and the Mainland. The situation with Chung Ying Street in Sha Tau Kok Town is particularly unique. It is the only place within the territory with no established boundary control measures but people and goods are still allowed to cross the boundary. These inherent security risks have pointed to the need for Sha Tau Kok Town and the Starling Inlet to remain within the FCA and subject to relevant restrictions. Regarding the figures on the number of smuggling cases and the number of illegal immigrants arrested in Sha Tau Kok, only those from 2002 to 2010 are available, which are provided below:

Illegal Immigrants Arrested

Year     Sha Tau Kok          Hong Kong
                        (excluding Sha Tau Kok)
----     ------------   -----------------------
2002         575                4 787
2003         631                3 178
2004         484                2 415
2005         235                1 956
2006         263                3 785
2007         129                4 919
2008          73                3 912
2009         190                3 511
2010         149                2 943

Number of Smuggling Cases

Year    Sha Tau Kok            Hong Kong
                       (excluding Sha Tau Kok)
----    -----------    -----------------------
2002        32                    241
2003        41                    279
2004        42                    326
2005        23                    282
2006        16                    213
2007        24                    162
2008        22                    198
2009        13                    218
2010        10                    262

(d) The Police do not maintain records of CAP applications submitted specifically by uniform groups or their members for access to the Sha Tau Kok FCA.

(e) The proposal to establish a proper boundary control point at Chung Ying Street in Sha Tau Kok Town involves various complicated considerations. We need to take into account the unique physical setting and historical background of Chung Ying Street, the long-standing practice of Sha Tau Kok locals to have free access to and mobility within Chung Ying Street, the impact of the additional boundary control point on the local residents, and the reaction of the Sha Tau Kok community at large.  At present, we have no plan to establish a boundary control point at Chung Ying Street.

(f) The Sha Tau Kok Public Pier currently provides services to the residents of the local villages and nearby islands. It also serves as the only disembarking facility for fishermen and mariculturists operating nearby. The pier was built in the 1960s and has been maintained by the Civil Engineering and Development Department (CEDD). During an inspection in 1996, CEDD found that the pier was in poor condition, suffering from significant corrosion that could not be repaired. As the pier is an indispensable transport facility for Sha Tau Kok residents and other operators, CEDD reconstructed the pier in 2004 in the interest of public safety. The new pier was completed in 2006 and was commissioned for service in the same year.

     According to a utilisation survey conducted by the Transport Department in 2010, the average pier usage is as follows:

               No. of      No. of
               vessels     passengers
               -------     ----------
Weekday         18           104
Weekend/        23           279
public holiday

(g) Prior to the announcement of the reduction of FCA in January 2008, the Administration had given serious consideration to various factors such as the security needs of the FCA, the topography of the area along the boundary, technical feasibility, etc. As stated above, Chung Ying Street and the Starling Inlet involve unique geographical constraints and historical background.  To maintain effective management of the FCA, Sha Tau Kok Town and the Starling Inlet will need to remain within the FCA. That notwithstanding, the Police have conducted security assessment of the proposal to open up Sha Tau Kok Town to facilitate tourism on a limited scale, especially the Sha Tau Kok Public Pier, with a view to striking a balance between the need for ensuring the associated security measures are acceptable to the local residents while maintaining effective boundary control.

(h) In accordance with regulation 49 of the Road Traffic (Registration and Licensing of Vehicles) Regulations (Cap. 374E), the Police may only issue Closed Road Permit (CRP) of validity of not more than 12 months. The Police have not set any upper limit on the number of CRP to be issued annually.

     The number of CRP issued for access to the Sha Tau Kok FCA is as follows:

Year (Note 1)     No. of CRP issued
-------------     ------------------
2007                   11 771
2008                   10 519
2009                   11 470
2010                   12 585
2011                    5 047
(up to April 30)

(Note 1: Figures on the number of CRP issued available since 2007 only.)

(i) According to the Government Property Agency, the Sha Tau Kok Government Offices Building is currently occupied by four government departments, including the Hongkong Post, the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD), the Trade and Industry Department and the Registration and Electoral Office. The Home Affairs Department has not set up any offices in the Building. The monthly operating expense of the Sha Tau Kok Government Offices Building is about $38,000, which mainly covers property management fees and electricity charges.

     The Hongkong Post and FEHD respectively have established the Sha Tau Kok Post Office and the North District Cleansing Section (Sha Tau Kok) in the Sha Tau Kok Government Offices Building. A total of about 70 staff (mostly frontline staff of FEHD's Cleansing Section) provides postal and cleansing services for the local residents. The Trade and Industry Department and the Registration and Electoral Office use the Government Offices Building for temporary storage.

(j) In preparing the Sha Tau Kok Area - Layout Plan, the Planning Department has reserved sufficient land in Sha Tau Kok for community facilities, taking into account the Hong Kong Planning Standards and Guidelines and local requirements. Currently, there is a community hall in Sha Tau Kok Town with a seating capacity of 80. The utilisation of the community hall is not high.  In the past three years, there was no incident where more than one organisation applied for the use of the community hall at the same session. The Administration does not consider it necessary to provide a new community hall in Sha Tau Kok at present.

Ends/Wednesday, June 1, 2011
Issued at HKT 16:49


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