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LCQ9: Preventing smugglers from exploiting cross-boundary students for smuggling
     Following is a question by the Hon Cheung Kwok-kwan and a written reply by the Acting Secretary for Security, Mr John Lee, in the Legislative Council today (June 21):
     It has been reported that some lawbreakers abetted and lured cross-boundary students (especially primary students) into smuggling. Besides, the Shenzhen exit/entry border inspection authorities recently smashed, within one day, 10 cases in which cross-boundary students smuggled smartphones and expensive food ingredients into the Mainland via the Huanggang Port. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) of the respective numbers of cases in the past five years in which (i) the Customs and Excise Department intercepted primary students or students under the age of 12 smuggling items out of Hong Kong at various land boundary control points (BCPs), and (ii) exit/entry border inspection authorities of the Mainland intercepted such students smuggling items into the Mainland at the relevant land ports;
(2) of a breakdown of the number of cases in (1) by (i) BCP/port, (ii) age of the students, and (iii) category of the smuggled items (set out in a table);
(3) whether the authorities have grasped the intelligence on lawbreakers using cross-boundary students for smuggling;
(4) whether the authorities took, in the past five years, initiatives such as conducting decoy operations, to investigate and combat the crimes of using cross-boundary students for smuggling; if so, of the relevant details, including (i) the type and (ii) number of operations, as well as (iii) the number of persons arrested; and
(5) of the measures in place to prevent and curb lawbreakers' using cross-boundary students for smuggling; whether publicity targeting schools admitting cross-boundary students and the parents of such students will be launched to remind them that they should teach students not to smuggle items for others; whether it has held regular discussions with the exit/entry border inspection authorities of the Mainland the making of concerted efforts to combat such kind of activities?

     Upon consultation with relevant policy bureaux and departments, our consolidated reply to the question is as follows:
     The Customs and Excise Department (C&ED) implements import and export control at various boundary control points (BCPs), with a view to preventing prohibited and controlled items from entering and leaving Hong Kong illegally. To this end, C&ED conducts spot checks on cross-boundary individuals and their luggage based on monitoring of smuggling trends, risk assessment and intelligence analysis. C&ED also maintains close liaison with other law enforcement agencies of Hong Kong (including the Hong Kong Police Force (HKPF) and the Immigration Department), the customs authorities of the Mainland and relevant departments by holding regular meetings, exchanging intelligence and launching joint operations.
     From 2012 to 2016, C&ED did not intercept any cross-boundary students (CBSs) carrying prohibited and controlled items at BCPs when leaving Hong Kong. The Mainland authorities have not notified the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the number of CBSs they intercepted for smuggling items into the Mainland at land BCPs connecting Hong Kong in the past five years.
     To prevent the smugglers from exploiting students for cross-boundary smuggling, the Government has all along been reminding schools and cross-boundary coach operators through various channels, including annual briefings on transportation arrangements for CBSs and daily contact, that they should find out from CBSs their clearance and transportation situations from time to time, teach them to keep a watchful eye on their school bags and personal belongings to avoid being exploited to smuggle prohibited goods during transit, and educate them to obey the law and not to engage in improper activities.
     C&ED has stepped up publicity, education and enforcement at BCPs, including setting up signage for clearance of CBSs at customs halls and increasing spot checks on CBSs and their escorts. When conducting clearance, C&ED officers often remind students to keep a watchful eye on their personal belongings in order to prevent smugglers from exploiting them for smuggling prohibited and controlled items.
     The Education Bureau (EDB) has formulated safety guidelines and points to note in which coach operators providing school bus services for CBSs are required to remind escorts and parents/guardians not to instigate and exploit CBSs to engage in smuggling activities. The guidelines have also set out clearly relevant ordinances, criminal liabilities and reporting hotlines as deterrent.
     In response to the recent developments, the Government has written to schools to remind them again of the important points to note and urge them to advise parents/guardians of CBSs to pay attention to their children to ensure that they are not involved in any smuggling activities. During the past two weeks, the Border District and Yuen Long District of HKPF distributed over 20 000 leaflets to CBSs and their parents at land BCPs and schools that admitted CBSs in those districts with a view to enhancing their awareness against illegal smuggling activities, so that they can avoid being exploited by smugglers and breaking the law. Moreover, EDB will collaborate with relevant government bureaux and departments to organise sharing sessions for schools, coach operators, CBSs and their parents/guardians to keep them abreast of the latest developments in smuggling activities and aware of related ordinances and criminal liabilities. Stakeholders should also educate students to abide by the laws.
Ends/Wednesday, June 21, 2017
Issued at HKT 12:45
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