英文

Editorial : Marine cop dead amid rampant smuggling activities

【明報專訊】A SENIOR MARINE POLICE INSPECTOR passed away while carrying out anti-smuggling duties. It was the second time that a law enforcing officer had fallen overboard and died since the fatal capsizing of a customs patrol craft struck by a smugglers' vessel early last year. The incidents have highlighted the rampancy of marine smuggling activities. Armed with high-powered and "robust" speedboats, daredevil smugglers have no fear of being chased by law enforcing officers and will even ram their vessels into officers' craft. The authorities must review the equipment of anti-smuggling units in the disciplined services so as to enhance their capacity in combating criminal organisations. Because of the huge demand for meat amid the booming economy of the mainland and factors like international trade and tariffs, there has been a considerable difference between the prices of imported meat and domestic meat on the mainland in recent years, something coveted by criminal organisations. The scale of frozen-meat smuggling is so enormous that a trans-provincial industrial chain has even taken shape and the coastal area of the mouth of the Pearl River has become a smuggling blackspot. Taking advantage of the "blind spot" of law enforcement by the authorities of Hong Kong, Guangdong and Shenzhen, criminal organisations went about their illegal activities brazenly. This is a problem faced by the entire Greater Bay Area. In order to combat the smuggling organisations, the Hong Kong government should strengthen cooperation with its counterparts in Guangdong, Shenzhen, Zhuhai and Macao.

The deceased senior inspector joined the police force 14 years ago. The first female boat team commander in the marine police's history, she was responsible for leading her team in the pursuit of smugglers and illegal immigrants. On Saturday morning (September 25), she was carrying out patrol duties with three colleagues aboard a "multi-mission interceptor" in the western waters near Sha Chau. After spotting several smuggling speedboats, they launched a maritime pursuit of the smugglers. But one of the smugglers' speedboats slammed into the marine police's interceptor, which capsized and threw the four officers overboard. Three officers were later rescued but the female cop went missing. At last, her body was found near Yi O yesterday morning (September 27).

It was not the first death of law enforcement officers in the waters around Sha Chau. In January last year, five customs officers on board a shallow watercraft tried to intercept two speedboats suspected to be smuggling frozen-meat in the waters off Sha Chau. The customs craft capsized and three of the officers died. These smuggling speedboats are not only robust but also highly mobile. In order to escape, not only do the daredevil smugglers dare to hit the law enforcing vessels with their speedboats, but they also disregard the safety of other vessels on the sea. According to a video posted on the internet, the smuggling speedboats will swarm across the western waters as if they were a "naval fleet" and no one were nearby. Some local boatmen have even talked about seeing a large number of speedboats dashing towards the mainland's waters in the dark without using navigation lights. For safety's sake, ordinary boats avoid sailing in the waters concerned at night.

To do a good job, one must first sharpen the tools. In order to step up the combat against smuggling, the authorities must first strengthen the equipment for the marine law enforcement agency. At the same time, battling cross-border crime is one aspect of integration in the Greater Bay Area. The smuggling speedboats dart in and out of the western waters of Hong Kong in a fearless manner not only because they are fast, but also because the mainland's waters are near. Even if they are chased in the territory of Hong Kong, once they have made it into the mainland's waters, the city's marine police can only turn away because they do not have the authority to enforce the law beyond the border. The smuggling organisations have gone about their illegal activities by taking advantage of such "blind spots" of the law enforcing agencies of Hong Kong and the mainland. A strengthened law enforcement and an effective crackdown on the smugglers are possible only if the Hong Kong government joins hands with Guangdong, Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Macao and so forth.

明報社評2021.09.28:走私猖獗水警殉職 灣區合力打擊犯罪

水警高級督察反走私殉職,這是繼去年初海關巡邏艇被撞翻側後,再有執法人員墮海遇難,突顯海上走私活動猖獗,亡命之徒恃着快艇馬力大「夠斤両」,無懼執法人員追緝,甚至驅艇硬撼,當局有必要檢視紀律部隊反走私的裝備,提升戰力與犯罪集團周旋。內地經濟蓬勃,肉食需求強大,受國際貿易和關稅等因素影響,近年內地的進口及本地肉食價格相差較大,惹來犯罪集團垂涎,大規模走私凍肉,形成跨省產業鏈,珠江口沿岸成了走私黑點。犯罪集團看準香港與粵深當局執法的「盲眼位」,明目張膽從事不法勾當,這是整個大灣區的問題,港府應跟粵深珠澳等地政府加強合作,打擊走私集團。

殉職高級督察加入警隊十四載,也是水警史上首名女性擔任小艇指揮官,負責帶隊追緝走私及非法入境者。上周六早上,她與3名同袍駕乘一艘「多重任務截擊艇」,在西部水域沙洲一帶巡邏,發現走私高速快艇,展開海上追逐,水警截擊艇遭走私快艇猛撞沉沒,艇上4人墮海,其中3人獲救,女警失蹤,遺體昨早在二澳附近發現。

今次已非首度有執法人員在沙洲一帶水域殉職。去年1月,5名關員駕乘海關淺水巡邏艇,在沙洲對開追截兩艘懷疑走私凍肉快艇,海關巡邏艇被撞翻轉,3名關員墮海喪生。這些走私快艇硬淨之餘,機動性亦高,亡命之徒為了逃走,不僅夠膽驅船硬撼執法船舶,也無視海上其他船舶安全。網上片段顯示,走私快艇聯群結隊在西部水域「行軍」,旁若無人,有本地船家還稱,入夜後曾目擊大批沒亮航行燈快艇飛馳向內地水域,一般船艇為了安全,晚上都會避免駛經涉事水域。

工欲善其事,必先利其器,加強反走私執法,首先必須強化海上執法裝備。同時,大灣區融合牽涉各方各面,打擊跨境犯罪,乃是其中之一。走私快艇出入香港西部水域有恃無恐,不僅因為它們速度快,還因為內地水域近在咫尺,即使在香港範圍被追捕,一逃入內地水域,香港水警無權越境執法,只能鳴金收兵。走私集團利用香港與內地執法機關的「盲眼位」,從事犯法活動,港府必須跟粵深珠澳等地攜手合作,加強執法,方能有效打擊。

■Glossary

生字

smuggling : the crime of taking, sending or bringing goods secretly and illegally into or out of a country

capsize : if a boat capsizes or something capsizes it, it turns over in the water

slam : to crash into something with a lot of force

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