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The total number of reported drug abusers in 2023 rose 3% from 2022 to 5,500, the Action Committee Against Narcotics announced today. According to the latest Central Registry of Drug Abuse figures, the number of reported drug abusers aged under 21 declined by 11% to 659. The most common substances taken among drug abusers in 2023 were heroin, cocaine and "ice" (methamphetamine), while people under 21 mostly took cocaine, cannabis and ketamine. Speaking on the rise in the total number of reported drug abusers in 2023, the committee's Chairman Donald Li noted that changes were observed in the drug situation as Hong Kong resumed normalcy in full in 2023 after the COVID-19 pandemic. Although the total number of reported drug abusers last year was still lower than in 2019 or 2018, the committee reminded relevant government departments to pay close attention to the changes in the drug situation and also suggested that they continue various anti-drug campaigns. The number of people arrested for drug offences in 2023 dropped 15% to 3,406 compared with 2022. For the same period of comparison, the number of arrestees aged under 21 decreased by 33% to 323, with cannabis and cocaine the main drugs involved. Meanwhile, 87% of the people prosecuted for drug offences were convicted.
(To watch the full media session with sign language interpretation, click here.) The consultation exercise for the Basic Law Article 23 legislation has already garnered many opinions, with the majority of the views expressed supporting its enactment, Chief Executive John Lee said today. The Basic Law Article 23 legislation consultation launched by the Government will end on February 28 and Mr Lee was asked about its progress by reporters before he attended the Executive Council meeting this morning. “We have been receiving a lot of opinions,” he said. “The majority of them support Article 23 enactment. “We also believe that because of what we went through in 2019 in the attempted colour revolution, the awareness has been very strong.” The Chief Executive added that the consultation results will be presented to the Legislative Council. “The general opinions give me the impression that they are in support (of) the overall goal of enacting Article 23 to ensure that we protect ourselves when people want to cause damage to us. “We will, of course, report the overall result of consultation in due course to LegCo.”
Apart from smashing a money laundering syndicate which had laundered about $14 billion through transnational trade activities, Customs has frozen about $165 million worth of assets under the names of those arrested in the case. Customs made the announcement today and pointed out that this is the largest money laundering case it has shut down to date in terms of the amount of tainted money involved. It explained that Customs officers had earlier identified a suspected money laundering syndicate and initiated a financial investigation. During the probe, the officers discovered that the family-owned syndicate not only opened multiple companies and bank accounts in Hong Kong but also recruited locals through an intermediary to open shell companies and stooge accounts for dealing with about $14 billion of crime proceeds. The investigation also revealed that some of the tainted money originated from the proceeds of mobile application scams in India. On a pretence of exporting jewellery and diamonds to India, the syndicate turned the fraudulent proceeds into payments of goods to transfer the illicit gains to local corporate bank accounts under its control. Customs officers raided 11 premises across different districts in Hong Kong on January 30. Seven people, comprising four Chinese and three non-ethnic Chinese, aged between 23 and 74, were arrested on a money laundering offence under the Organised & Serious Crimes Ordinance. Customs also cracked down on a money laundering operation centre at a commercial premises and seized a large quantity of suspected synthetic gemstones, a number of mobile phones, computers, company chops, cheque books, bank cards, bank documents and trading documents in the arrestees' residential and commercial premises. The investigation is ongoing and the likelihood of further arrests has not been ruled out. People may call 2545 6182, fill out an online form or send an email to the department to report suspected smuggling activities.
On the first day of the Lunar New Year, Chief Secretary Chan Kwok-ki said the Government will be wholehearted in its governance in the New Year. Speaking at the Hong Kong Well-wishing Festival 2024 in Lam Tsuen, Tai Po, this morning, Mr Chan wished for the collaboration of the Government, the business sector and the community in achieving four hopes: safeguarding national security with resolute determination; drawing diverse talent with full confidence; supporting grassroots communities with joint efforts; and enhancing district governance with people's needs taken to heart. The Chief Secretary also visited the Shenzhen Bay Control Point to learn about its preparation and operations during the Lunar New Year holidays. He was pleased to note that the various control points in Hong Kong have been generally operating in an orderly and smooth manner.  The Shenzhen Bay Control Point and the Lo Wu Control Point are extending their service hours on specified dates during the Lunar New Year holidays for the first time, to divert cross-boundary passenger and vehicular movements more effectively.  Mr Chan instructed all relevant departments to press ahead with the full implementation of the special boundary-crossing and relevant transport arrangements for the holidays. He also appealed to travellers visiting Hong Kong during the Lunar New Year to plan their trips in advance to avoid departure via land boundary control points in the small hours or peak hours as well as encouraged them to stay overnight in the city for a more diverse and enriching travel experience.
The Immigration Department (ImmD) today reviewed its work in 2023, covering responding to the demand for travel document services, law enforcement, and support for Hong Kong residents in distress outside the city, among others. The department noted that with the gradual resumption of normalcy in society, it received a total of more than 1.45 million Hong Kong Special Administrative Region passport applications in 2023. Over 195,000 applications were recorded in the single month of March. Both the numbers of applications for the whole year or by month reached record highs since the department began the issuance of Hong Kong SAR passports in July 1997. During the year, the department conducted a total of 13,370 related inspection operations at various immigration control points and intercepted 20,811 passengers for enquiries. A total of 23,464 passengers were intercepted for enquiries. With effect from October 2023, the department relaxed the visa policy in respect of employment for Vietnamese talent and the criteria for Vietnamese applying for a multiple‑journey visit visa to come to Hong Kong. Meanwhile, Laotian and Nepalese talent have also been allowed to come to Hong Kong for employment, training and study in full-time locally accredited local programmes at undergraduate or above level offered by the University Grants Committee-funded institutions. In February 2023, the Hong Kong SAR Government sent a rescue team including two ImmD officers to Türkiye to take part in the earthquake rescue mission. This was the first overseas rescue operation conducted since the establishment of the Hong Kong SAR. In October 2023, the department received 59 requests for assistance from Hong Kong residents in relation to the heightened tensions between Palestine and Israel. After liaison with various parties, it helped all assistance seekers leave or take flights to return to Hong Kong safely. Looking ahead, the department is scheduled to relocate offices and facilities concerned to the new headquarters in Tseung Kwan O in phases starting from March this year, and the new headquarters will officially provide services to the public starting from June 11. The new Personal Documentation Submission Kiosks and Personal Documentation Collection Kiosks will be set up at the new headquarters. The public can pick up both identity cards and Hong Kong SAR passports in a fully automated manner using the new collection kiosks. To facilitate the Government's measures for attracting and retaining talent, the department will implement the new Capital Investment Entrant Scheme and the Vocational Professionals Admission Scheme in 2024. To enhance the 1868 hotline system, the department is planning to introduce advanced functions in the current quarter, including instant messaging in the Hong Kong Immigration Mobile Application and the 1868 assistance hotline in the department's WeChat official account.
The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government today firmly opposed and strongly condemned a joint statement made by four former consuls general of the US to Hong Kong in relation to a case involving Lai Chee-ying, and the US Consulate General in Hong Kong for posting the statement. In response to the statement, the Hong Kong SAR Government said any attempt to interfere in the city’s judicial proceedings by means of political power, media or any other means, thereby resulting in a defendant not being able to have a fair trial that one should receive, is a reprehensible act undermining the rule of law of Hong Kong. “Making a statement with the intent to interfere with or obstruct the course of justice, or engaging in conduct with the same intent, is very likely to constitute the offence of criminal contempt of court or the offence of perverting the course of justice.” Moreover, the Hong Kong SAR Government stressed that the city’s law enforcement agencies have been taking enforcement actions based on evidence and strictly in accordance with the law in respect of the acts of the people or entities concerned, adding that such actions have nothing to do with their political stance, background or occupation. It also made it clear that the suggestion that certain individuals or groups should be immune from legal consequences for their illegal acts is no different from advocating a special pass to break the law, and this totally runs contrary to the spirit of the rule of law. Apart from strongly urging the US and the former consuls general to discern facts from fallacies, the Hong Kong SAR Government stated that they should stop interfering in Hong Kong’s internal affairs and Hong Kong courts’ independent exercise of judicial power.
Chief Executive John Lee, together with principal officials, today began a three-day year-end programme of visits to grassroots families in Hong Kong’s 18 districts in celebration of the Lunar New Year. Mr Lee and Secretary for Home & Youth Affairs Alice Mak visited Ms Hau, a 91-year-old resident of Chung Uk Tsuen in Tai Po, to learn about her daily life and presented her with a Lunar New Year gift bag on behalf of the Government. They also shared the festive joy with other residents there. Miss Mak also called on senior citizens and single-parent families living in Ying Tung Estate in Tung Chung. Secretary for Justice Paul Lam visited the elderly in Wan Tsui Estate in Chai Wan, while Deputy Secretary for Justice Cheung Kwok-kwan met a family and seniors living in Choi Wan (II) Estate in Ngau Chi Wan. Secretary for Culture, Sports & Tourism Kevin Yeung was at Oi Man Estate in Ho Man Tin to visit elderly singletons and couples. Secretary for Health Prof Lo Chung-mau went to Tin Wah Estate, Tin Shui Wai and spoke to seniors and grassroots residents. Meanwhile, Secretary for Transport & Logistics Lam Sai-hung visited seniors living in Wah Sum Estate in Fanling, while in Apliu Street in Sham Shui Po, Secretary for the Civil Service Ingrid Yeung spoke to singleton elderly people living there. The principal officials will continue to visit grassroots families in the coming two days.
Secretary for the Civil Service Ingrid Yeung visited the Correctional Services Department today to meet directorate officers and frontline correctional officers and tour the Lai Chi Kok Reception Centre. Mrs Yeung first met Commissioner of Correctional Services Wong Kwok-hing and directorate staff for a briefing on the custodial environment and facilities of the institution as well as ways to introduce smart elements and an advanced management mode into its facilities improvement projects. They then toured various detention, security and rehabilitation facilities and learnt about the challenges and difficulties encountered by frontline staff in the operation of the reception centre. During the visit, Mrs Yeung was also briefed by frontline staff on the Intelligent Robotic Monitoring System and how it assists correctional officers in conducting nighttime patrols and enhancing supervision of persons in custody. In addition, they learnt about the application of the Smart Health Sensing System and Contactless Vital Sign Monitoring System, which are used to monitor the breath and heartbeat of patients in the reception centre's hospital. Mrs Yeung said: “It is a general trend to utilise information technology to implement a modernised management mode in correctional facilities and proactively introduce 'smart prison' elements, which could further improve not only the operational efficiency of the reception centre but also the working environment of correctional officers.” Before concluding her visit, Mrs Yeung met staff representatives of various grades in the department. She thanked staff for their commitment and diligence in their work, and for striving to maintain round-the-clock security and order in the correctional facilities.
The Immigration Department today said it estimates that over 7.5 million passengers will pass through Hong Kong’s sea, land and air control points during the upcoming festive period from February 9 to 17. The estimate was made in consultation with the Shenzhen General Station of Exit & Entry Frontier Inspection. The two parties estimate that around six million of the passengers will transit through land boundary control points. The number of passengers using land boundary control points will be highest on February 11 and February 13, when around 461,000 outbound passengers and inbound 607,000 ones are expected. Passenger traffic at the Lo Wu Control Point is expected to reach a daily average of about 170,000 passengers. Meanwhile, the Lok Ma Chau Spur Line Control Point and the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge Control Point can expect around 158,000 and 105,000 passengers respectively. To facilitate cross-boundary passenger and vehicle flows during the Lunar New Year holidays, two special arrangements will be implemented. Firstly, from February 9 to 13, passenger and passenger vehicle clearance services at the Shenzhen Bay Control Point will operate around the clock. Secondly, on February 9 and 11, passenger clearance services at the Lo Wu Control Point will be extended to 2am the next day. These arrangements have been put in place after the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government reached agreement with the relevant Guangdong and Shenzhen authorities. The department, along with Police, Customs and the MTR Corporation, will set up a joint command centre at the Lo Wu Control Point to make necessary arrangements. The department will also establish close communication with the Mainland authorities and implement traffic diversion plans as necessary, in order to ensure smooth passenger traffic flows. Residents and visitors may check the estimated waiting times for arrivals and departures at each land boundary control point via a dedicated mobile application.
A total of 90,276 crimes were reported in 2023, representing an increase of 28.9% compared to the figure for 2022, Police said today. The upsurge was mainly attributed to an increase in deception cases. The overall detection rate was 31.1%. The detection rate for robbery and arson cases hit a record high, while the detection rate for burglary cases was the second highest on record. As normalcy resumed in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, instances of most traditional crimes increased in 2023 compared to the year before, although several crimes showed significant decreases when compared to the figures for 2018. Deception cases rose 42.6% year-on-year in 2023 to 39,824. A total of more than $9 billion was involved in these crimes. Last year, 9,239 people were arrested for involvement in deception cases, including money laundering cases. About 6,500 people were found to be stooge account holders. In November 2023, the one-stop scam and pitfall search engine, Scameter, was linked to the Faster Payment System (FPS). By the end of December, more than 148,000 alerts were issued to the public, covering high-risk transfers amounting to nearly $180 million. The 18222 Anti-Scam Helpline received some 52,000 calls last year, and more than $1.29 billion in fraudulent payments was intercepted. Police will optimise the functions of Scameter+ by incorporating automated elements to issue alerts when users browse suspicious websites and receive suspicious calls. A public reporting mechanism in the application will also be introduced. Looking forward, Police will focus this year on safeguarding national security, enhancing community engagement and soliciting support from the public, as well as working to combat deception cases.