Saluting cross-border crime control

Updated: 2015-11-23 08:17

By Sonny Lo(HK Edition)

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Sonny Lo writes that in today's troubled world collaboration between law enforcement agencies in Hong Kong, the mainland and other territories is more important than ever

The latest terror attack in Paris has vividly demonstrated the need for better international police cooperation in controlling cross-border crime. It also highlights why the people of Hong Kong should be more appreciative of the diligent work done by our police officers in fighting crime.

Cross-border crime affecting Hong Kong traces back to the 1990s when a group of mainland bandits formed the Big Circle Gang to rob jewelry shops in broad daylight, armed with AK-47 rifles to deal with law enforcement officers. In response, our police not only strengthened firepower to deal with the gangsters but negotiated cooperation with the mainland police.

Cross-border crime was then curbed until shortly before Hong Kong's return to the motherland, when a gang led by the late Big Spender, Cheung Tze-keung, launched a series of kidnappings targeting the rich in Hong Kong. Mainly due to the sharing of intelligence on the whereabouts of Big Spender and his accomplices, the entire gang was eventually smashed on the mainland. Big Spender was executed and his accomplices imprisoned. It was an outstanding success in collaboration between cross-border law enforcement agencies.

The most recent kidnap case involved Queenie Rosita Law, who was the target of a number of mainland gangsters who sneaked into Hong Kong in April. They were quickly apprehended by mainland police after the authorities from the two sides exchanged intelligence on the gang's movements.

Another victory in these joint police operations was the smashing earlier this month of the telephone scams that affected thousands of not only mainland residents but also some Hong Kong people, when 254 Chinese were arrested in Indonesia and Cambodia and sent back to the mainland. This case demonstrated the importance of international police cooperation on cross-border crime, especially when lawbreakers exploit the use of technology in conducting their illicit operations and raking off illegal profits at the expense of innocent people.

In the region, intergovernmental cooperation has become a model for crime control because the police from the mainland, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macao have been holding annual conferences since 2005 to enhance collaboration. These events provide an essential forum for members of all four police forces to exchange crime-fighting ideas and expand liaison work, while also strengthening their established networks.

Credit must be given to the police in these four places since their people can live peacefully without any threat of such serious cross-border criminal activity - as terrorism is seen elsewhere. Indeed, vigilance is the key to success in crime control because daring cross-border criminals utilize every means to sneak across different boundaries to achieve their economic and even ideological objectives.

The challenge for police in the mainland, Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan is to boost further cooperation - not only by sharing criminal intelligence but also through the process of transferring criminal suspects to where their crimes were committed. Macao and the mainland have already formalized the transfer of criminal suspects, whereas the mainland and Taiwan reached an anti-crime agreement back in 2009. While Hong Kong and the mainland have been handling the transfer of criminal suspects administratively, the issue has not yet been formally legalized due to the complexities of the different legal systems. Similarly, Hong Kong and Macao need to strengthen further legal cooperation in order to handle the transfer of cross-border criminal suspects.

Despite the fact that legal cooperation between the four places needs further strengthening, their respective police forces have been quick to benefit from information gleaned from one another. For instance, in more cities than ever before mainland police have been setting up auxiliary police along the Hong Kong model. Also there has been further valuable input from the printed word. The police in many mainland cities have been writing articles for their various police journals to share their ideas on crime control, investigation methods and skills, evidence collection and the possible adaptation of effective foreign policing techniques. It could even be suggested that the modernization of mainland police has become a silent revolution that contributes immensely to the regional success in controlling cross-border crime.

Most importantly, community policing has become prominent in the four places. While Hong Kong has long cherished the tradition of enhancing police interactions with the community, its police force has recently used Facebook to narrow any communication gap with the public. Likewise, police in the mainland, Taiwan and Macao have also been attaching great importance to community networking, forming a cooperative partnership with members of the public.

In the final analysis, police accountability to the public is also a new feature of police cooperation on the mainland, and in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao. While the police have been improving their work and relations with the man in the street, the concept of accountability has gained currency in all four places.

As can be seen, public safety cannot be taken for granted. It can only be achieved not only through the professionalism of our finest, but through successful collaboration with their neighboring counterparts as well. They all deserve our respect and gratitude, and not calumny and frivolous criticisms.

The author is a professor and head of the Department of Social Sciences at the Hong Kong Institute of Education and a long-time observer of developments in Hong Kong.

(HK Edition 11/23/2015 page11)