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LCQ21: Preventing sex crimes in railway
    Following is a question by the Dr Hon Chiang Lai-wan and a written reply by the Secretary for Transport and Housing, Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung, in the Legislative Council today (November 23):
     It has been reported that in the first half of this year, the Police received respectively 65 reports of indecent assaults and 55 reports of "under skirt photo-taking" which occurred within the Railway Police District. The figures rose by more than 20 per cent compared to the same period last year, with the youngest suspect being just 13 years old. As pointed out by the Police, the perpetrators mainly chose to commit crimes in train compartments as well as on platforms and escalators, which were crowded. Some members of the public have pointed out that the MTR train compartments are getting more and more crowded due to increase in patronage, creating opportunities for perpetrators to commit crimes. They therefore suggested that the MTR Corporation Limited (MTRCL) should designate during specified hours, on a trial basis, some train compartments for the exclusive use of women, children, the elderly and persons with disabilities. However, MTRCL refused to implement the suggestion on the grounds that such a measure might constitute discrimination, and there were difficulties with train compartment design and manpower deployment, etc. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) of the number of reported cases of sex crimes received by the Railway Police District in each of the past five years, with a breakdown by sex and age of the victims and by sex and age of the perpetrators;
(2) given that in reply to my question on May 22, 2013, the authorities indicated that MTRCL would consider installing closed circuit television (CCTV) system in train compartments that were not equipped with such system, whether the authorities know if all train compartments have currently been installed with CCTV system; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that, and MTRCL's timetable for installing such system in all train compartments;
(3) whether it knows if MTRCL has made reference to the experience of places, such as Japan and Taiwan, in providing women's compartments; if MTRCL has made reference, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and
(4) whether the authorities reviewed in the past three years the effectiveness of MTRCL's efforts in combating sex crimes; if they did, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?
     The Railway District of the Hong Kong Police Force (the Police) and the MTR Corporation Limited (MTRCL) are responsible for the security of the MTR network. Over the years, both parties have been working closely together to provide safe and reliable railway service to passengers. They from time to time review the effectiveness of the measures to prevent and curb crimes (including indecent assault) within the MTR premises to ensure safety of passengers.
     My reply, after consultation with the Security Bureau, to the various parts of the question raised by the Dr Hon Chiang Lai-wan is as follows:
(1) According to the Police, the number of reported cases of sex crimes received by the Railway Police District in each of the past five years, with a breakdown by sex and age of the victims and by sex and age of the arrested persons is at the Annex.
(2) In compliance with the requirements under the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance, the main purpose for the MTRCL to install closed circuit television (CCTV) system in stations and train compartments is to meet the daily operational needs of the railway service, such as monitoring passenger flow, providing prompt assistance to passengers and handling emergency situation. The installation of CCTV system in train compartments enables the train captains to immediately understand the situation in the train compartments through the CCTV system and provide prompt assistance, when passengers activate the in-train intercom where necessary. It also helps prevent and combat crime. In any event, passengers should report to the Police as soon as possible or contact MTR staff to timely notify the Police for follow-up, if they witness any unlawful acts.
     According to the MTRCL, the CCTV system is installed on all trains currently running on the West Rail Line, Ma On Shan Line and Disneyland Resort Line. It is also installed on some of the East Rail Line and Kwun Tong Line trains and Light Rail Vehicles (LRVs). The MTRCL awarded a contract in July 2015 to purchase 93 trains to fully replace the first generation trains currently running on the Kwun Tong Line, Tsuen Wan Line, Island Line and Tseung Kwan O Line. These new trains will be equipped with the CCTV system and are expected to be put into service gradually starting from late 2018. In addition, the trains purchased by the MTRCL for new railway projects will also be equipped with the CCTV system, including the ones for the South Island Line (East) and those which will gradually replace the existing trains of the East Rail Line starting from 2018 to tie in with the commissioning of the "North-South Corridor" of the Shatin to Central Link. Moreover, the 40 LRVs (30 of which will replace the existing Phase II LRVs), with procurement confirmed by MTRCL in July this year, will also be equipped with the CCTV system. The first batch of the new LRVs is expected to be put into service in 2019.
     As for trains without the CCTV system, the MTRCL will consider installing the CCTV system during retrofitting works for the trains in future.
(3) The MTRCL has considered some overseas experiences, but reckons that it is not appropriate to introduce female-only compartments in the MTR network due to the reasons below:
(i) handling more than 8 100 train trips per day, MTR provides one of the most frequent services amongst the railway networks in the world. During peak hours, crowds usually appear on the platforms, particularly the ones of interchange stations, and train service is maintained at a frequency of around two minutes per train. Any kind of exclusive compartments would have impact on the control of passenger flow (for example, passengers will need to wait for trains at designated positions on the platforms);
(ii) as most MTR trains are of an open design, the introduction of female-only compartments would reduce the flexibility of passenger movement between train compartments; and
(iii) when deciding whether to introduce female-only compartments, one should also consider whether there is a need to introduce male-only compartments to ensure both sexes are treated equally, so as to comply with the Sex Discrimination Ordinance.
     Different operating modes will be adopted by railway systems of different cities according to different operating environments and factors (including the space of stations and train compartments, and passenger throughput). In fact, female-only compartments are not common in railway systems around the world. Currently only a few jurisdictions in the world offer them. Taking the experience of Taiwan as an example, according to the report of the local media, there are practical enforcement difficulties when providing female-only compartments, as it is difficult for staff to stop male passengers from entering female-only compartments.
(4) To prevent crime of indecent assaults in the railway premises, the MTRCL has put up posters at stations to step up the promotion of anti-crime messages on indecent assaults. Passengers are encouraged not to remain silent but report incidents or crimes of indecent assaults immediately to the Police or station staff. The MTR station staff are properly trained to assist the Police in combating crimes. In addition, the MTRCL and the Railway Police District hold regular anti-crime meetings to share information about the latest crime trend and intelligence, and to deliberate on specific strategies to combat crimes. The MTRCL also organises publicity activities in conjunction with the Police (including regular anti-crime publicity activities organised annually) so as to raise passengers' anti-crime awareness. The figures shown in the Annex also reveal that the number of reported sex crimes received by the Railway Police District is general on a steady trend, or even sees a decrease between 2013 and 2015.
Ends/Wednesday, November 23, 2016
Issued at HKT 16:52
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