Opening remarks by S for S at LegCo Finance Committee special meeting

     Following is the English translation of the opening remarks by the Secretary for Security, Mr Lai Tung-kwok, at the Finance Committee special meeting of the Legislative Council today (April 9):


     In the draft Estimates for the new financial year (2013-14), the allocation on the security policy area group is $36.6 billion, representing 8.3 per cent of the total government expenditure. The two policy areas of Internal Security and Immigration Control under my responsibility will account for $31.1 billion.

Law and Order

     The overall law and order situation in Hong Kong remained stable in 2012. The overall crime figure was about the same as the level in 2011, whilst the violent crime figure registered a decrease of 2.1 per cent as compared with 2011. The Police will always remain alert to maintain the law and order of our society.

     The major operational targets of the Commissioner of Police for 2013 are to combat violent crimes, triads, syndicated and organised crimes, dangerous drugs, "quick-cash" crimes and technology crime, and to maintain professionalism in ensuring public safety and counter-terrorism work.

     The Police will also create 45 new posts for addressing the policing needs in the Tseung Kwan O and Kai Tak areas, and strengthening the Sexual Conviction Record Check Scheme.

Control Points and e-Channel Service

     To maintain Hong Kong's status as an international trade and tourism hub, the Immigration Department (ImmD) has all along strived to provide a smooth and effective immigration clearance service. The number of visitors arriving in Hong Kong has continued to grow over the past few years. In 2012, the total number of visitor arrivals reached 48.6 million, representing a 16 per cent increase from 2011.

     ImmD has adopted a series of measures to cope with the passenger traffic. In the 2013-14 financial year, there will be a net increase of 154 posts in ImmD, among which 116 will be deployed for carrying out immigration control and related duties at new and existing control points. We have commenced recruiting suitable candidates for these new posts and will provide suitable training for them with a view to having them deployed to control points as soon as possible to relieve the manpower pressure thereat.

     ImmD has also strived to increase its handling capacity and efficiency through strengthening its e-Channel service. Since the introduction of Mainland frequent visitor e-Channel service, the usage rate has been satisfactory in that the number of users has accounted for more than 20 per cent of all Mainland visitors. To further alleviate the pressure at boundary control points, we will increase the number of visitor e-Channels available for use by Mainland visitors to 100 within this year. On the other hand, the handling capacity of the Lok Ma Chau and Man Kam To control points would increase upon completion of improvement works within the current year.

Assistance to Hong Kong Residents Overseas

     We will continue to provide assistance to Hong Kong residents in distress outside Hong Kong. We will review the coverage of the Outbound Travel Alert (OTA) system biannually. Since its launch in late 2009, we have extended the OTA coverage from 60 countries and regions to 85. The newly added places are popular tourist or business destinations for Hong Kong residents.

     With effect from November 30, 2012, we have also issued OTA information via the "GovHK Notifications" mobile platform so that the public can conveniently receive relevant information via smartphones.

Public Safety

     The Fire Services Department (FSD) will create 165 additional posts in the new financial year. Of these new posts, 111 are to tie in with the commissioning of a new fire station at Cheung Yip Street in Kowloon Bay in the latter half of 2013, and to strengthen the manpower of the Tsim Tung Fire Station and Shun Lee Fire Station in response to the increased fire risks in these areas. The other 54 posts are for adding five ambulance shifts and establishing a special support unit to further enhance emergency ambulance services.

     To ensure the safety of front-line personnel, the FSD replaces fire services and ambulance equipment in a timely manner. The expenses on procurement of fire appliances, vessels, ambulances and major equipment, etc, for 2013-14 are estimated to be around $300 million.

     In 2013-14, the FSD will gradually roll out the pilot scheme on reduction of weekly conditioned hours of work for operational staff from 54 to 51 in different districts. Phase I of the pilot scheme commenced on March 15, 2013. The department will ensure that the reduction arrangement will not affect the fire-fighting and rescue services.

Custody and Rehabilitation of Detainees

     To strengthen security and maintain discipline and order in correctional institutions, Correctional Services Department (CSD) officers need to conduct searches on persons in custody to prevent their possession of contraband such as drugs and weapons. In end-2012, the department put the first low-radiation X-ray body scanner into use at the Lai Chi Kok Reception Centre to replace manual rectal searches. In view of the satisfactory outcome, the department plans to install one X-ray body scanner each in Pik Uk Correctional Institution, Lo Wu Correctional Institution and Tai Lam Centre for Women in 2013-14.

     To ensure that there is effective monitoring on whether some rehabilitated persons have relapsed into drugs when they re-integrate into society, the CSD will collect their urine specimens for testing. To strengthen the integrity of the urine specimen testing arrangements, the CSD will set up a Urine Specimen Collection Centre next to the Lai Chi Kok Reception Centre this year. The urine specimens will be collected and processed by staff outside the Rehabilitation Division to minimise any possible conflict of interest. In addition, CCTV will be installed in the centre to record and monitor the testing process.

Combating the Drug Abuse Problem

     The Government has injected new resources to support anti-drug initiatives in different areas. In 2013-14 the Social Welfare Department (SWD) will extend the Enhanced Probation Service (EPS) territory-wide to all seven magistrates' courts. Through more focused, intensive and structured treatment programmes, the EPS will continue to help young offenders under the age of 21 convicted of drug-related offences to turn over a new leaf.
     Chairman, this concludes my opening remarks. My colleagues and I will be happy to answer questions from Members.

Ends/Tuesday, April 9, 2013
Issued at HKT 19:35