LCQ7: Combating violent radicalisation
It has been reported that although the Police have in recent years successfully cracked down on radicals and organisations advocating home-grown terrorism, the activities of such kind of organisations have turned underground and have been active on online social platforms to disseminate radical messages in order to encourage other people to break the law. On combating violent radicalisation, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) whether it has plans to consolidate the strengths of various Government departments to jointly combat violent radicalisation;
(2) of the number of crimes involving radicals and organisations advocating home-grown terrorism, and the number of persons arrested, in each year since the eruption of the riots in 2019; and
(3) whether it has considered stepping up targeted publicity and education to prevent violent radicalisation, and including the relevant work into the issues for discussion by the Fight Crime Committee?
Since the promulgation and implementation of the Law of the People's Republic of China on Safeguarding National Security in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKNSL) on June 30, 2020, there has been a significant drop in violent acts. However, there are still some violent extremists hidden in the community. They make use of the Internet to incite others to commit radical acts. Domestic terrorism activities have even shown signs of going underground and becoming clandestine, posing severe challenges to security locally. The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Government has all along been fully committed to counter-terrorism (CT) efforts and adopted an inter-departmental approach to jointly combat domestic terrorism.
The reply of the Security Bureau (SB) to Dr the Hon Hoey Simon Lee's question is as follows:
(1) and (2) The SB and the Inter-departmental Counter Terrorism Unit (ICTU) with its member departments (namely the Hong Kong Police Force (HKPF), the Immigration Department, the Customs and Excise Department, the Correctional Services Department, the Fire Services Department and the Government Flying Service) are committed to combating violent radicalisation and strengthening the prevention and tackling of terrorist threats along the following directions:
(I) Vigorous combat of terrorist activities in accordance with the law
The Police are deeply concerned about cases of extreme violence and committed to fully investigating and vigorously combating such cases in accordance with the law. If sufficient evidence is found upon investigation, the Police and the Department of Justice will consider prosecution under the United Nations (Anti-Terrorism Measures) Ordinance (UNATMO) (Cap. 575) and freezing the property related to terrorist activities to cut off the funding sources of offenders and prevent them from recruiting members. Regardless of whether prosecution is made under the UNATMO, terrorist acts (such as cases of explosives and firearms) per se are very serious crimes, which are subject to the maximum penalty of life imprisonment under the Crimes Ordinance (Cap. 200), the Firearms and Ammunition Ordinance (Cap. 238) and the Organized and Serious Crimes Ordinance (Cap. 455).
Since the eruption of riots in 2019, the Police have cracked down on 26 cases involving firearms, explosives, explosive precursors or terrorist activities under the HKNSL, arresting more than 114 persons in total. For the case where the Police found two improvised explosive devices weighing 10 kilograms in total outside Wah Yan College in Wan Chai in December 2019, 10 of the defendants have been charged for conspiracy to violate the "prohibitions against bombing of prescribed objects" under the UNATMO. The maximum penalty for this offence is life imprisonment. The 10 defendants are being remanded in custody and will appear in Eastern Magistrates' Courts on July 4.
(II) Strengthening CT preparedness
Since its establishment in 2018, ICTU has continuously enhanced its internal CT preparedness, including strengthening intelligence collection, conducting strategic research, training and CT exercises, as well as stepping up inter-departmental collaboration to enhance Hong Kong's overall CT capability. The specific work includes:
(a) ICTU adopts a multi-pronged approach by proactively co-ordinating, facilitating and reinforcing intelligence exchange and analysis among member departments on one hand, and strengthening intelligence exchange with Mainland and overseas law enforcement agencies through different channels for strategic deployment of CT resources in response to threats on the other. ICTU also attaches great importance to strengthening communication and collaboration with public and private organisations to enhance their security and property management personnel's CT awareness, thereby expanding the CT intelligence network of the Police in the community. Moreover, as reports from the public could provide important leads for CT efforts, ICTU has launched the "CT Reporting Hotline 63-666-999" to facilitate members of the public to report suspected terrorism-related cases or violent acts around them, so as to enable the Police to intervene, investigate and prevent extremists' activities as soon as possible.
CT training and exercises
(b) ICTU has, to date, provided various forms of CT training to more than 23 600 officers of disciplined forces to enhance their awareness of the terrorism landscape and their professional capability in collecting intelligence as well as reporting and handling suspected terrorism-related incidents. ICTU has also organised over 50 training sessions for personnel of facilities with a higher risk of attack, such as airports, major shopping malls and hospitals. More than 2 500 persons attended these training sessions.
Besides, ICTU co-ordinates inter-departmental CT exercises on a regular basis, with a view to strengthening the capability of various departments in handling terrorist attacks, educating the public to be vigilant against terrorist activities, and maintaining public confidence in the HKSAR Government's CT capability. Over the past five years (2017-2021), the Police organised a total of 67 CT exercises to simulate emergency situations where various locations/important facilities were under attack and to test the response and co-ordination of relevant departments. In November last year, ICTU co-ordinated a CT exercise codenamed "TIGERPACE" at the High Speed Rail Hong Kong West Kowloon Station with about 300 officers from ICTU taking part in it.
(3) As regards public education and publicity on CT, combating terrorism requires concerted efforts and vigilance of everyone in the society. Therefore, the Government has all along attached great importance to the work in this respect. Apart from the abovementioned CT Reporting Hotline, ICTU continues to promote various public educational themes on CT, including "Stay Vigilant to Bomb", "Run, Hide and Report", and "Spot and Report", to enhance public awareness of terrorism and the threat of self-radicalisation. For greater publicity, ICTU promotes CT messages through a number of physical and digital advertising platforms, including bus and tram bodies, bus stops, tunnels, cinema advertisements, television announcements of public interest, advertisements in mobile phone applications and distributing leaflets along with water bills, so that more people can access information on CT and put the "whole-of-community" approach in CT into practice. The Police will also continue to disseminate and explain CT messages to the public through different channels, such as Police Community Relations Officers of various districts.
In addition, the Fight Crime Committee (FCC) is an important partner of the Government. The FCC is responsible for planning and guiding the fight against crime, providing advice and recommendations to the Government on measures to prevent and reduce crime, as well as co-ordinating and monitoring the effectiveness of crime-fighting efforts. The Commissioner of Police reports to FCC regularly on the latest law and order situation, including the overall CT situation and the corresponding combating strategies and measures. The FCC also discusses the rehabilitation work of the Correctional Services Department, including how to help the young people who had been incited to become radicalised and violent to get rid of the extreme thoughts and rebuild correct life values. In light of crime trends, "enhance the law-abiding awareness of young people" has been one of the themes of the FCC publicity campaigns since 2021. The FCC will continue to work closely with the HKPF, District Fight Crime Committees, and community groups to organise various types of fight crime publicity activities in disseminating fight crime messages to different sectors of the community.
Ends/Wednesday, June 22, 2022
Issued at HKT 16:35
Issued at HKT 16:35