【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.
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