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Opening remarks by S for S at LegCo Finance Committee special meeting
     Following is the English translation of the opening remarks by the Secretary for Security, Mr Tang Ping-keung, at the special meeting of the Legislative Council Finance Committee today (April 12):


     In the draft Estimates for the new financial year, allocation under the Security Bureau (SB)'s responsibility will be around $57.3 billion, which is around $0.4 billion less than the approved estimates last year. The allocation accounts for around 7.5 per cent of the total government expenditure.

     As regards safeguarding national security, since the implementation of the National Security Law (NSL), order has been restored in Hong Kong. Development of economy and people's livelihood are also back on track.

     We should however stay on guard and be vigilant to the attempts of external forces and their agents in Hong Kong to bring hatred against the Central authorities and the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) through media, culture and arts, and other "soft resistance" means.

     Our law enforcement agencies will continue to take investigatory and law enforcement actions against acts and activities suspected of endangering national security, and step up collection and analysis of intelligence, in particular online information and counter-spying intelligence, so as to prevent, suppress and impose punishment for acts and activities endangering national security.

     As regards legislation, the HKSAR Government will continue to take forward the legislation to implement Article 23 of the Basic Law in order to fulfil the constitutional responsibility, and will commence public consultation at a suitable juncture.

     As regards crimes, the overall crimes in 2022 increased by 8.7 per cent as compared with last year. The increase was mainly attributed to an increase in deception cases, which had risen for around 40 per cent and accounting for nearly 40 per cent of the total crimes. Substantial decreases were registered in violent and a number of major crimes, among which the number of robbery and burglary cases were the lowest since records began. Cases of wounding and serious assault, snatching and pickpocketing etc had also dropped to a record low since Hong Kong's return to the Motherland.

     We will closely monitor crime trends, flexibly deploy resources to intensify efforts to combat crimes, in particular against deception. The Police will continue to combat crimes with comprehensive measures, including intelligence-led operations, collaboration with relevant stakeholders to prevent deception cases and intercept payments, and raise public awareness through targeted publicity and education.

     On counter terrorism, apart from strengthening intelligence gathering and enhancing departments' preparedness, the Inter-departmental Counter Terrorism Unit will continue to promote counter terrorism education among the public, and encourage them to provide intelligence on terrorism or violence-related information.

     On handling of non-refoulement claims, over the years, the HKSAR Government has adopted a multi-pronged strategy to tackle the issue of non-refoulement claims. With the gradual resumption of international flight connections and the implementation of the updated removal policy since December 2022, the Immigration Department (ImmD) removed from Hong Kong on average 120 unsubstantiated claimants per month in the first three months of 2023, representing an increase of over 30 per cent as compared with that in 2022. The ImmD will continue to make every effort to expedite the removal of unsubstantiated claimants.

     On full resumption of normal travel with the Mainland, normal travel between Hong Kong and the Mainland has fully resumed from February 6. The land boundary control points (BCPs) are now operating smoothly. We will continue to liaise closely with the Mainland authorities to ensure that the BCPs operate smoothly and provide convenient and efficient immigration clearance services.

     On facilitation flow of talents, the HKSAR Government has all along adopted an open immigration policy which attracts talents and facilitates business while maintaining effective immigration control. In June last year, we introduced a pilot scheme which enables visitors invited by authorised host organisations to participate in specified short-term activities in Hong Kong without the need to apply for an employment visa.

     With effect from February this year, the Mainland authorities have introduced the exit endorsement for talents travelling to and from Hong Kong and Macao in the Greater Bay Area on a pilot basis to facilitate six categories of Mainland talents to travel to Hong Kong for exchanges and visits. If the talents holding the exit endorsement for talents also meet the criteria for the above pilot scheme, they may also come to Hong Kong to participate in specified short-term activities and receive remunerations. These measures facilitate the flow of talents with a view to achieving a win-win situation.

     On fire safety of old buildings, a public consultation on amending the Fire Safety (Buildings) Ordinance (the Ordinance) was completed in September last year. Views received are generally in support of empowering the Fire Services Department and the Buildings Department to carry out fire safety improvement works for owners who have failed to comply with the requirements of the Ordinance, and to recover the relevant fees from them after completion of works. We will formulate a suitable default works mechanism, and plan to submit the legislative amendment proposal in the form of a bill to the Legislative Council for scrutiny.

     On custodial work and rehabilitation of persons in custody, the Correctional Services Department (CSD) will continue to proactively introduce technologies to improve the efficiency and security level of prison management. Besides, the CSD will strive to enhance its rehabilitation programmes to help persons in custody rebuild positive values, and seek wider support for the rehabilitation work from all sectors of the community.

     On promoting youth development, the SB is committed to increasing the number of active members of youth uniformed groups of disciplined services departments, with a view to instilling positive thinking, law-abiding awareness, patriotism, and a sense of discipline and team spirit in the youth. Last year, the number of active members of youth uniformed groups of the six disciplined services increased by over 25 per cent to more than 5 700.

     On combating drugs, with effect from February this year, CBD has been listed as a dangerous drug and under control. The HKSAR Government has stepped up promotion and education targeting local residents and visitors to prevent them from breaching the law inadvertently. Law enforcement agencies will continue to closely monitor the global trends and combat drug offences.

     Chairman, the representatives from Departments and I are pleased to answer questions from Members. Thank you, Chairman.
Ends/Wednesday, April 12, 2023
Issued at HKT 20:02
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