Brief for LegCo on the 1996 Policy Address: Security Branch
The Security Branchs policy objective is to provide a first class service to the community in maintaining law and order, in controlling immigration, in protecting life and property, and in ridding ourselves of the burden posed by the Vietnamese Migrants problem and the scourge of drug addiction. Together with our 56,000 colleagues in the disciplined services, and colleagues in the other departments which contribute to the Security Branchs programme area, we are determined to provide a safe environment for our community to prosper and grow. The following paragraphs set out the highlights of our Policy Commitment in the coming year.
LAW AND ORDER
2. The community puts the highest priority in securing the stability of Hong Kong which underpins our economic, social and cultural developments. Hong Kong remains one of the safest cities in the world and we are determined to keep it that way. Our overall crime rate over the years is comparable to that in Singapore, and far lower than that in Tokyo, London and other metropolitan cities in the United States and Canada.
3. Furthermore, our crime rate is declining. Compared with 1992, the overall crime rate has decreased by about 8.9% and violent crime rate has fallen by some 23.2%. This trend continues : if we compare the first eight months of 1996 with the same period last year, overall crime rate (expressed as per 100,000 population) has decreased by 13.7%, the total number of reported crimes decreased by 11.5%, and the total number of violent crimes dropped by 11.6%.
4. We are committed to increasing the Police front-line operational strength. We have put an additional 1,200 Police officers to front-line duties between 1992 and 1995. We are on course to meet our current years commitment to put a further 350 policemen in front-line operational duties, 232 of them will be deployed to strengthening our anti-triad capability at the regional and district levels. We have made use of the new investigative and sentencing powers under the Organised and Serious Crimes Ordinance 54 times since it came into full operation in April 1995. We will continue our efforts to deploy more Police officers to front-line duties in the coming year.
5. We have improved co-operation and liaison with Chinese public security organisations to deal with cross-border criminal activities. This has resulted in significant decline in some cross-border crimes. For example, the numbers of luxurious cars, tractors and all vehicles reported missing have dropped by 55%, 50% and 36% respectively in the first 6 months of 1996 when compared with the same period in 1995.
6. In the coming year, we will also be devoting our attention to strengthening public confidence in the Police Force. We will develop a Force Anti-Corruption Strategy, formulate the Forces own, clearly - defined organisational objectives, and implement service quality projects, such as better report-room facilities and streamlined procedures for interface with the public. We will also strengthen public confidence in the Police complaints system, by enhancing the Independent Police Complaints Councils role in monitoring and reviewing Police complaints investigation, and by improving the transparency and capability of Police investigations into such complaints. Along with our other new initiatives, we have every confidence to maintain our momentum in combating crime, and in upholding Hong Kongs reputation as one of the safest cities in the world.
7. Although the past year has seen a reversal in the up-trend of young people involved in drugs, we are not complacent. Young people are still making up a high proportion of the newly reported cases. We are determined to keep up the momentum of the Beat Drugs Campaign, and do everything possible to reduce drug abuse by young people.
8. In May this year, at the second summit on drugs, we announced a $30 million 32-point Forward Action Plan for continuing the fight against drugs. We will also be following up vigorously various constructive suggestions put forward by summit participants.
9. To deter drug traffickers from involving young people in the commission of drug offences, we will introduce amendments to the Dangerous Drugs Ordinance to provide for heavier sentences for them. We aim to introduce a Bill into the Legislative Council in early 1997.
10. To strengthen the control of chemicals which can be used for the illicit manufacture of dangerous drugs, we will provide Customs and Excise Departments Investigation and Intelligence Units with 22 additional staff in 1996/97. We will also increase the number of pharmacist inspections from 700 to 800 per month, to clamp down on the illegal sale of controlled drugs.
11. The establishment of the $350 million Beat Drugs Fund in March this year gives further impetus to our Beat Drugs Campaign. In the first tranche of applications, around $8.7 million has been approved by the Fund for a variety of agencies to carry out, among others, preventive education and treatment and rehabilitation projects. We shall shortly be calling for applications under the second tranche. We encourage the community to make the best use of the Fund to launch worthwhile anti-drug projects, and to join hands to beat drugs.
12. Overcrowding in our penal institutions is not new : unfortunately it remains a serious problem. As we step up our enforcement actions against criminals and illegal employers and workers, we can expect more demand for penal places.
13. We are working to increase the supply of penal places through various means. First, we are redeveloping the Stanley Prison area and the Tai Lam Correctional Institution to provide about 1,000 more penal places by 1999. Secondly, we are converting vacated Vietnamese migrants detention centres into penal institutions. The Chi Ma Wan (Lower) Detention Centre is being converted into a female drug addiction treatment centre to provide an extra 250 places by the end of this year. The ex-military camp at Lo Wu will be converted into a temporary penal institution which will provide about 200 places. Taken together, these measures should provide an additional 1,450 places over the next three years to bring some relief to the over-crowding situation. But they are not enough. We are actively looking for new sites to construct penal institutions elsewhere in the territory. We hope to be able to select suitable sites early next year.
IMMIGRATION CONTROL AND RIGHT OF ABODE
14. We have made significant progress in the Joint Liaison Group in the area of passport and travel documents in the past year. Preparation for the issue of the SAR passport is now well under way. We have also recently reached agreement in principle with the Chinese side over other, less frequently used travel documents : these will continue to be issued after 30 June 1997, until the HKSAR Government is ready to introduce new formats. In the coming months, we will focus on two areas. First, we will seek to resolve the outstanding issues on "right of abode". This means not only resolving the question of how non-Chinese nationals will acquire the right of abode, but also drawing up the implementation procedures and details, securing the resources needed and drafting the necessary legislation. Secondly, we aim to agree arrangements for the Chinese and British sides to co -operate in securing the maximum degree of travel convenience for Hong Kong residents post 1997. Time is now pressing, and we must rapidly reach a satisfactory conclusion to our discussion with the Chinese side over these issues. We are already lobbying third countries for visa free access for HKSAR passport holders.
15. The Immigration Department will have a particularly busy year ahead. Quite apart from the transitional immigration issues, the Department will need to :
- complete the BDTC naturalization programme and the BN(O) passport issuing programme before April 1997. Thereafter, the BN(O) passport issuing function will be assumed by the British Trade Commission (the precursor to the British Consulate General on 1 July 1997);
- continue our unrelenting efforts to combat illegal employment; and
- continue to streamline procedures to improve passenger clearance time at the main immigration control points. In line with our commitments to APEC, we are now developing a Travel Pass System to facilitate the fast-track clearance of frequent visitors.
FIRE FIGHTING AND RESCUE SERVICES
16. Through the provision of new resources and redeployment of existing resources within the Fire Services Department, we have been able to meet our graded response time for fire calls in 1995/96. Our fire fighting capability in the New Territories West will be further strengthened when the fire station in Sham Tseng comes into operation next year.
17. On emergency ambulance service, our target is to respond to 92.5% of emergency ambulance calls within a travel time of ten minutes. We are not yet able to meet this target. Our performance was constrained by several factors. The main problem was the higher than expected increase in workload : compared with 1994/95, we saw a 10.5% increase in the total number of emergency calls received in 1995/96. Other constraints include the difficulty in finding suitable location for additional ambulance depots, the increasing geographic spread of the population in N.T., and traffic congestion.
18. However, we are committed to improve the performance of our emergency ambulance service up to the 92.5% level. We have already begun to relieve the Fire Services Department from providing non-emergency patient transport service, by gradually transferring the service to the Auxiliary Medical Services in the course of 1996/97. We will also provide about 100 additional posts to re-inforce staffing at existing depots. Two new ambulance depots, one in Lam Tin and another in Sham Tseng, will come into operation in 1997. We will continue to look for ways to improve on the emergency ambulance performance and coverage.
19. 1996 has seen an acceleration of repatriation; consequently, the Vietnamese migrant population has now dropped to about 12,000. We have increased the pace of orderly repatriation to between 600 to 700 a month. This, combined with a voluntary repatriation rate of 7-800, means we are now repatriating between 1,300 to 1,400 Vietnamese Migrants each month. This has enabled us to close the Tai A Chau Detention Centre last month. We will further increase the pace of orderly repatriation to about 1,000 starting this month. We hope that this would bring about a corresponding increase in the rate of voluntary repatriation. If we are able to maintain this momentum, we should be able to close the camps by 30 June 1997. I should not gloss over the difficulties that lie ahead; for example, we will need to negotiate with the Vietnamese Government to give speedy clearance for the return of the 4,000 of so VMs who have not yet been cleared. In this connection, the Refugee Co-ordinator will be holding technical talks in Hanoi on 10 October. Much work remains to be done, but the end of the tunnel is in sight.
20. We are all too conscious of the challenges that lie ahead. To meet these challenges, we will need the support of this Council and the community. I believe we are on the right track, although I am the first to admit that there is room for improvement. As the Policy Address documents show, we have basically lived up to our commitments in the Security programme area last year; we will do so again this year.
Last Updated on 21 August 1998