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 1):


     In the draft Estimates for the new financial year (2014-15), the allocation on the security policy area group is $38.7 billion, representing 9.4 per cent of the total government expenditure. The two policy areas of Internal Security and Immigration Control under my responsibility will account for $32.5 billion.

Law and Order

     The overall law and order situation in Hong Kong saw further improvement in 2013. The overall crime figure in 2013 represented a drop of 4 per cent, whilst the violent crime figure registered a decrease of about 5.2 per cent as compared with 2012. Most crimes recorded significant decreases and major cases including robbery, burglary, wounding and serious assault, theft, criminal damage, triad-related offences and youth crimes, fell to new lows in the past decade.  

     The major operational targets of the Commissioner of Police for 2014 are to combat violent crimes, triads syndicated and organised crimes, dangerous drugs and "quick-cash" crimes, to promote cyber security and combat technology crimes, and to maintain professionalism in ensuring public safety and counter terrorism work.

     The Police will also create 169 new posts mainly for upgrading the Technology Crime Division to a new Cyber Security and Technology Crime Bureau, strengthening the engagement of young people and the elderly, and strengthening the manpower establishment for Tseung Kwan O Police Division by phases in preparation for its upgrading to a Police District.

Establishment of Cyber Security and Technology Crime

     In order to strengthen the Police's ability to protect information systems of critical infrastructure and enhance their capability to prevent and combat technology crimes, the Police will upgrade the existing Technology Crime Division to a new Cyber Security and Technology Crime Bureau (CSTCB) in 2014.

     The new CSTCB will increase the Police's overall capability in handling cyber security and combating technology crimes. We will consult the Panel on Security later this year on the proposed creation of a permanent Chief Superintendent of Police post for the new CSTCB.

Engaging the Youth and the Elderly

     Young people are the future of our society. The Police will enhance engagement with young people through enhanced support to the Police School Liaison Programme and different types of activities of the Junior Police Call, with a view to building their self-confidence, instilling positive values in them, developing their leadership skills and self-discipline and promoting the spirit of serving the community.

     The Police have since February 2014 fully rolled out the Senior Police Call programme, which will provide an effective platform to enhance communication between the Force and the elderly, to develop partnership with them and to enhance the awareness of the elderly on crime prevention and road safety.

Immigration Services

     The number of visitors arriving Hong Kong has continued to grow over the past few years. In 2013, the total number of visitor arrivals reached 54.3 million, representing a 12 per cent increase from 2012. In the 2014-15 financial year, there will be a net increase of 138 posts in the Immigration Department, among which 85 will be deployed for carrying out immigration control duties at control points. We will strive to have them deployed to control points as soon as possible to relieve the manpower pressure thereat.

     Convenience measures introduced to shorten the waiting time for clearance in recent years, including the extension of the e-Channel service to frequent visitors, implementation of non-stamping immigration clearance arrangement for visitors, and launching of Immigration Mobile Application for the public to obtain information on the estimated waiting time at land boundary control points, have been proven effective.

     Moreover, following the implementation of the use of automated clearance services on a mutual basis with the Republic of Korea at the end of last year, the Immigration Department is actively discussing the further implementation of this service with other European and Asian countries to provide greater convenience to inbound and outbound travellers. Details will be announced once confirmed.
Entry of Talents

     We adopt an open immigration regime and have implemented a series of admission schemes to facilitate the entry of non-local talents. These include the General Employment Policy, the Admission Scheme for Mainland Talents and Professionals and the Quality Migrant Admission Scheme, which allow professionals and talents to take up employment or residence in Hong Kong. The Immigration Arrangements for Non-local Graduates aim to encourage non-local students to stay in Hong Kong. As at end 2013, there were more than 88 000 overseas and Mainland professionals working in Hong Kong, accounting for more than 2 per cent of the local labour force.

     In view of Hong Kong's human capital needs, we will strengthen the publicity of the schemes and enhance our co-operation with Mainland and overseas economic and trade offices, in order to attract more quality talents to Hong Kong and to improve the quality and competitiveness of the population.

United Screening Mechanism

     The unified screening mechanism (USM) commenced operation on March 3, 2014 to screen non-refoulement claims against removal to another country on various grounds including risks of being subjected to torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and/or persecution upon removal to that country.

     The procedures of the USM follow those for the statutory torture claim screening mechanism to ensure that they meet with the high standards of fairness required by the Court and to implement our policy objective, i.e., to effectively screen non-refoulement claims in accordance with the high standards of fairness required by the Court, and at the same time to reduce the chance of the system being abused by anyone to protract his illegal presence in Hong Kong, attracting other "economic migrants" to come here.

Public Safety

     To enhance public safety, the Fire Services Department (FSD) will create 137 additional posts in the new financial year, mainly for adding ambulance shifts to enhance emergency ambulance services; meeting the additional workload of vetting fire safety provisions arising from the anticipated new housing supply; and deploying to the Pat Heung Fire Station to meet the increase in fire service needs, etc.

     To ensure the safety of frontline personnel and the efficiency of operations, the FSD will replace fire service and ambulance equipment in a timely manner. The expenses on the procurement of fire appliances, vessels, ambulances and major equipment, etc. for 2014-15 are estimated to be around $360 million.  

     The FSD also plans to introduce the Registered Fire Engineer Scheme to enable third parties to participate in fire safety certification. Under the Scheme, licence applicants may choose to use the services of fire engineers or the FSD in respect of fire safety risk assessment and compliance inspection of fire service installations, etc. This will allow business operators to meet their business needs and shorten the time required for obtaining a licence. The FSD has completed the trade consultation and is preparing the legislative amendments.

Custody and Rehabilitation of Detainees

     The Correctional Services Department (CSD) has been implementing various measures to improve ageing correctional facilities. Works of the partial redevelopment programme of the Tai Lam Centre for Women will be completed at end-2016. Efforts will continue to be made to enhance other penal facilities, such as seeking funding from the Legislative Council for the replacement and enhancement of the closed-circuit television system for Stanley Prison and the installation of an electric locks security system at Tai Lam Centre for Women.

     The CSD will continue to provide market-oriented vocational training to inmates and work with various sectors of the community to facilitate the re-integration of inmates into society.

Combating Drug Abuse Problem

     The Government tackles the drug problem in a holistic manner through the five-pronged strategy of preventive education and publicity, treatment and rehabilitation, legislation and enforcement, external co-operation and research. Concerted efforts injected into the anti-drug war in the past few years have seen a substantial decline in the number of newly reported drug abusers and young drug abusers. Nonetheless, in view of the growing problem of hidden drug abuse, we will continue to encourage people with drug problems to seek help early, as well as enhance community awareness of the drug problem to facilitate early intervention for offering assistance.

     In January, the Action Committee Against Narcotics (ACAN) completed the public consultation exercise on the RESCUE Drug Testing Scheme. The ACAN is in the process of analysing the submissions received, and will recommend the way forward within the year. The Government has an open mind. Community consensus is a prerequisite for pursuing the scheme.

     Tackling drug activities at source is an important aspect of our anti-drug strategy. Taking into account the prevalence of transnational drug trafficking activities, the Customs and Excise Department will set up a dedicated team, supported by an additional 52 posts to strengthen existing law enforcement actions, and to foster closer liaison and intelligence exchange with Mainland and overseas law enforcement agencies, allowing the mounting of time-critical joint operations.

     Chairman, this concludes my opening remarks. My colleagues and I will be happy to answer questions from members.

Ends/Tuesday, April 1, 2014
Issued at HKT 20:10