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LCQ17: e-Channel system

     Following is a written reply by the Secretary for Security, Mr Ambrose S K Lee, to a question by the Hon Paul Tse in the Legislative Council today (February 1):


     It has been reported that a journalist used a fingerprint film-making tool kit purchased from a mainland shopping web site for around a hundred dollars to copy his fingerprint, and successfully used the copied fingerprint film to twice pass through the clearance of the Automated Passenger Clearance System ("e-Channels") which costs HK$400 million. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) of the reasons for the failure of the fingerprint anti-counterfeiting technology of e-Channels to identify the copied fingerprints;

(b) whether it has investigated and assessed the number of people who have successfully passed through the control points in Hong Kong via e-Channels by copying the fingerprints of other people with the aforesaid method or other methods since the launch of e-Channels in 2004;

(c) whether it investigated how many sets of the aforesaid fingerprint copying tools were sold through the shopping web site referred to in the media report or other selling channels;

(d) of the policies and measures to prevent such fingerprint copying tools from being sold rampantly and proliferating in the market, and to enhance the effectiveness of the fingerprint anti-counterfeiting function of e-Channels; and

(e) whether it has assessed if e-Channels, which were purchased using HK$400 million of public money, are still an effective gate-keeping system of immigration clearance; whether an overall assessment is needed?



     Currently, the Immigration Department (ImmD) deploys a total of 391 e-Channels at various control points. Each e-Channel is equipped with a fingerprint reader with biometrics identification function. Following the relevant media report, the ImmD has immediately liaised with the system contractor to follow up. I would reply to the subsections of the question as follows:

(a) Upon investigation, the ImmD has ascertained that only one e-Channel was involved in the report by the journalist. The ImmD has immediately arranged to repair the e-Channel, which had encountered technical problems. The ImmD has, with the assistance from the system contractor, also conducted thorough testing of all e-Channels and confirmed the overall reliability of the system.

(b) In the past, there were no cases whereby immigration clearance was successfully gained by means of duplicated fingerprints from another person.  

(c) The ImmD is aware that there were Mainland websites that sell fingerprint spoofing tools. The ImmD does not have information on the transaction or sales figures of the spoofs. We understand that the relevant websites has ceased the sales of such products.

(d) and (e) The technology adopted by the e-Channel system is reliable and advance and is widely recognised and adopted internationally. To further enhance its immigration service, the ImmD is conducting feasibility studies on the next generation information system, which includes the use of up-to-date facial recognition technology.

     Under Section 42 of the Immigration Ordinance, making a false statement to ImmD personnel is liable to a maximum penalty of 14 years' imprisonment and a fine of $150,000. This provision is applicable to the use of another person's identity cards.  Besides, under Sections 7A and 7AA of the Registration of Persons Ordinance, any person who, without lawful authority or reasonable excuse, uses or has in his custody a forged or another person's identity card or transfers to another person an identity card, is liable to a maximum penalty of ten years' imprisonment and a fine of $100,000.

Ends/Wednesday, February 1, 2012
Issued at HKT 16:24


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