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LCQ20: Provision of sufficient resources for control points
     Following is a question by the Hon Holden Chow and a written reply by the Secretary for Security, Mr John Lee, in the Legislative Council today (October 25):
     Upon the successive completion of the related works of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge, the Hong Kong Section of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link and the Liantang/Heung Yuen Wai Boundary Control Point, there will be three additional boundary control points in Hong Kong next year. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) of the respective numbers of staff members to be deployed in each of the coming five years by the Customs and Excise Department and the Immigration Department to those three boundary control points to perform duties; and
(2) whether the two Departments will have sufficient manpower for deployment in the coming five years; if not, whether and when the authorities will allocate additional resources to the two Departments so as to embark on the relevant recruitment and induction training work?
     The smooth operation of new control points can enhance the cross-boundary flow of passengers and goods, which is very important to the sustainable socio-economic development of Hong Kong. During the first nine months of 2017, over 221 million passengers travelled through various control points. The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government has all along attached great importance to the provision of sufficient resources for control point operations. Prior to the commissioning of new control points, the Government will, in accordance with existing mechanism, allocate additional resources to relevant departments for them to recruit and train sufficient manpower to ensure the smooth operation of new control points. Apart from creating additional posts, relevant departments will also adopt various measures, including flexible deployment of manpower, streamlining of procedures and better use of information technology, etc., to enhance the handling capacity and efficiency of control points and alleviate the work pressure of frontline staff.
     Our reply to the question raised by the Hon Holden Chow is as follows:
(1) The Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge, the Hong Kong Section of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link and the Liantang/Heung Yuen Wai control points will come into operation in succession. The Government had already allocated additional resources to the Customs and Excise Department (C&ED) and Immigration Department (ImmD) in 2017-18 to create around 400 and 600 posts respectively for customs clearance service, immigration control and related duties thereat. As the commissioning dates of the three control points are approaching, the Government will consider allocating additional resources to the relevant departments in 2018-19 in the light of the latest situation, thereby enabling them to create more new posts as necessary. It will also closely monitor the traffic volume of the new control points upon their commissioning and allocate additional resources, if required, to ensure their smooth operation.
(2) The ImmD and C&ED have put in place comprehensive human resource management plans, including recruitment and training plans. To meet their manpower requirement, year-round recruitment exercises for Immigration Assistant and Customs Officer have been launched since February and October 2017. Timely recruitment exercises for the officer grade will also be conducted. Meanwhile, both departments provide professional training to the newly recruited officers and the work is ongoing.
     Apart from manpower, we have adopted various measures to improve the clearance procedures, enhance the handling capacity as well as the operational efficiency of control points. For example, the ImmD has introduced "Non-stamping Immigration Clearance Arrangement" for visitors and Hong Kong non-permanent residents in March 2013 and December 2013 respectively. Under the arrangement, stamping on travel documents during arrival clearance has been replaced by the issue of a landing slip bearing the conditions and limit of stay of the holder. Upon departure, no landing slip or stamping would be given, which shortens the immigration clearance time. In December 2013, the ImmD launched the "Hong Kong Immigration Mobile Application" for Hong Kong residents and visitors to obtain information on the estimated passenger waiting time at major land boundary control points and other information. The information serves as a reference for Hong Kong residents and visitors so that they may choose a less congested land boundary control point or travel at less busy hours.  The ImmD has commenced the implementation of the "New Immigration Control System" by phases starting from early 2016. It comprises the upgrade and integration of the hardware and software of various control point systems, the upgrade of all existing e-Channels at control points to multi-purpose e-Channels and the installation of 158 additional multi-purpose e-Channels, etc. It enables frontline staff at control points to deploy e-Channels more flexibly based on passenger flow to expedite immigration clearance of Hong Kong residents and visitors and alleviates the work pressure of the traditional counter officers. The ImmD has also launched self-service departure for visitors (Smart Departure) at the Hong Kong International Airport on October 10, 2017. Smart Departure employs face recognition technology for identity verification, which provides a more convenient immigration service for visitors, while enhancing the effectiveness of immigration control. Such measures will be extended to other control points by phases. Besides, for the commissioning of new control points, the C&ED will also introduce advanced inspection equipment, for example, large-scale vehicle X-ray inspection system, to assist their customs clearance works and enhance the clearance efficiency.
     Relevant departments will continue to closely monitor the operational situation of and the effectiveness of measures implemented at the control points. They will also keep under review the need for manpower and other resources in the light of the actual circumstances.
Ends/Wednesday, October 25, 2017
Issued at HKT 15:05
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