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LCQ5: Counter-terrorism work

     Following is a question by the Hon Chung Kwok-pan and a reply by the Secretary for Security, Mr Lai Tung-kwok, in the Legislative Council today (January 6):


     It has been reported that a number of incidents of attacks launched by terrorists have occurred recently in various places around the world, and the Mainland and Taiwan are even included in a list of targets for attacks released by an extremist organisation. On the other hand, the Government conducted in November last year a large-scale counter-terrorism exercise codenamed "Windgate", jointly participated by 40 policy bureaux, government departments and related industry stakeholders, to test Hong Kong's capabilities in dealing with terrorist attacks and to enhance the counter-terrorism awareness as well as co-ordination and response capabilities of various government departments. Regarding the measures adopted by the Government against terrorist attacks, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) whether the authorities will step up security screening on foreigners entering Hong Kong in order to intercept terrorists; if they will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(2) whether the authorities will strengthen the exchange of intelligence on terrorist activities with other countries or places; given that a number of European cities currently under the threat of terrorist attacks are popular tourist destinations for Hong Kong people, whether the authorities will make use of such intelligence to enhance their efforts in reminding Hong Kong people travelling abroad to watch their personal safety, and review the existing Outbound Travel Alert System; and

(3) of the number of counter-terrorism and major incident response exercises conducted by the Police in the past three years; whether the various relevant government departments and organisations will conduct more joint counter-terrorism exercises in order to enhance their response and co-ordination capabilities; whether the Police will enhance their mechanism for assessing the risk of terrorist attacks and strengthen their capabilities of collecting intelligence on terrorist activities from the Internet; whether it has assessed the adequacy of the current manpower and equipment for conducting counter-terrorism operations; whether there are plans to increase manpower and purchase additional equipment to cope with the threats of globe-sweeping terrorist activities upon Hong Kong?



     My consolidated reply to Hon Chung's question is as follows:

     Hong Kong has a sound legal framework and strong enforcement capability to guard against and deal with any terrorist activities. The Police have been keeping a close watch on the international trend of terrorist activities and continuously assessing the terrorist threat to Hong Kong. Also, the Police have been maintaining close liaison with law enforcement agencies of other places to exchange intelligence and threat assessments. There is currently no specific intelligence to suggest that Hong Kong is likely to be a target of terrorist attacks. Our terrorist threat level remains "moderate".

     Strengthening counter-terrorism (CT) work is one of the operational priorities of the Commissioner of Police in 2016. The Police will continue to closely monitor the trend of terrorist activities to ensure their CT readiness in various aspects. They will also provide security advice for key infrastructural facilities and premises under potential threat, and deploy sufficient manpower for CT patrols.

     The Police will also conduct training and multi-agency exercises regularly to practise and enhance the CT contingency plan as well as ensure emergency preparedness. In the past three years, the Police conducted a total of 146 CT and major incident contingency exercises, mostly joint exercises with other government departments and organisations. The latest major incident contingency exercise was held in November last year. Codenamed "Windgate", this large-scale joint CT exercise was organised by the Security Bureau (SB) and participated by over 40 relevant bureaux, government departments and organisations of the relevant sectors. The exercise comprised two parts, the first part being intelligence development and field deployments, and the second communication practices and tabletop exercises. Simulating a plot by an extremist group to attack Hong Kong, the exercise aimed at testing and enhancing the CT capabilities of the Government, assessing the effectiveness of the relevant contingency plans, and heightening the CT awareness, co-ordination and capabilities of the relevant policy bureaux, departments and organisations. The Government will continue such work for continuous enhancement in the CT capabilities of relevant policy bureaux, departments and organisations.

     As regards security measures at the control points, the Customs and Excise Department adopts a risk management approach and takes appropriate control measures at various control points in the light of terrorist threat assessments and actual circumstances, such as tightened interception of suspected persons and inspection of suspected cargoes, postal parcels and conveyances as necessary. The Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) will put in place enhanced security measures corresponding to the latest trend of terrorist attacks in the international arena. To safeguard the security of HKIA, various stakeholders such as the Police, the Civil Aviation Department, the Airport Authority, the Aviation Security Company Limited and the airlines also meet regularly to exchange the latest intelligence and enhance cooperation.

     As regards immigration control, when handling immigration cases, the Immigration Department (ImmD) will, having regard to the circumstances of the visitor concerned and all relevant factors in each case, decide whether or not to approve his entry in accordance with the laws of Hong Kong and the prevailing immigration policies.

     As regards outbound travels by Hong Kong residents, the Government has put in place the Outbound Travel Alert (OTA) System, which aims to help Hong Kong residents better understand the possible risks to personal safety in travelling to overseas places that are popular with Hong Kong people. In case of any incidents that may compromise personal safety of Hong Kong residents, the SB will assess the risks and consider the need to issue an OTA taking into account factors such as the nature, level and duration of the threat. Under the OTA System, the SB closely monitors and assesses the relevant circumstances in places that are popular with Hong Kong people, including the risks of terrorist attacks. If necessary, the SB will disseminate updated information through various means such as the media, the OTA webpage and the mobile apps. We also encourage our residents to register their contact details and itineraries via the Registration of Outbound Travel Information service before departure, so that the ImmD may send them the latest information when necessary.

     President, it is one of the Government's priorities to stay vigilant at all times and continuously enhance the CT capability of Hong Kong. We will monitor the situation closely and seek continuous improvement over our work.

Ends/Wednesday, January 6, 2016
Issued at HKT 17:33


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