20 January 2015
Following months of intelligence analysis and in-depth investigation the Immigration Department, working with the Guangdong Provincial Public Security Department, the Shenzhen Municipal Public Security Bureau and Shenzhen General Station of Exit and Entry Frontier Inspection, smashed a human smuggling syndicate in a joint operation codenamed "Firenet" conducted in Guangdong Province and Hong Kong from January 9 to 13.
Through continuous intelligence collection and exchange, the above-mentioned authorities detected an active cross-boundary human smuggling syndicate that specialised in arranging for Vietnamese nationals to seek illegal entry into Hong Kong via the land border.
An Immigration Department spokesman said, "During the operation, the Immigration Department deployed more than 100 officers to raid a total of 44 target areas including 21 hideouts and 23 working places. A total of 23 persons comprising 12 males and 11 females aged from 23 to 61, including 10 Hong Kong residents, 12 Vietnamese and one Mainland resident were arrested. Among them, three core syndicate members were arrested for arranging and assisting the passage to Hong Kong of a person who was an unauthorised entrant, and aiding and abetting persons who sought to enter Hong Kong illegally and remain without the authority of the Director of Immigration. The 12 Vietnamese were arrested for various offences including seeking illegal entry into Hong Kong and remaining without the authority of the Director of Immigration, taking up unapproved employment, and using and possessing forged Hong Kong identity cards. In addition, a number of exhibits were seized including nine forged Hong Kong identity cards, 10 forged Hong Kong identity card copies, one unlawfully altered Vietnamese Entry and Exit Permit and bankbooks. In addition, Mainland authorities apprehended five syndicate members and four Vietnamese who intended to seek illegal entry into Hong Kong."
Investigations discovered that the syndicate members recruited Vietnamese nationals who wished to seek illegal entry into Hong Kong for illegal employment. The Vietnamese were assisted in entering Dongxing, Guangxi from Mong Cai, Vietnam on the strength of their Vietnamese travel documents and then proceeded to Shenzhen by coach. Usually, the Vietnamese had a short stay in Shenzhen and awaited the syndicate's help in hiding under a Hong Kong-bound container truck in the early morning for smuggling into Hong Kong. After successfully entering Hong Kong, the syndicate members not only provided the Vietnamese with hiding places, but also arranged for them to seek illegal employment. Moreover, the syndicate members supplied the Vietnamese with forged Hong Kong identity cards in order to conceal their status as illegal immigrants, thus further assisting their search for work.
The Department believes that the syndicate had been active for more than three months and charged Vietnamese illegal immigrants HK$8,000 to $10,000 for each arrangement. The Immigration Department spokesman said the joint operation had successfully neutralised the human smuggling syndicate. The Immigration Department will continue to co-operate with various law enforcement agencies to combat cross-boundary criminal activities.
Under the laws of Hong Kong, it is an offence for any persons who seek illegal entry into Hong Kong and remain without the authority of the Director of Immigration. Offenders are liable to prosecution and upon conviction to a maximum fine of $25,000 and imprisonment for three years. Those aiding and abetting in such crimes are liable to the same penalty.
Moreover, it is an offence to arrange and assist the passage to Hong Kong of a person who is an unauthorised entrant. Offenders are liable to prosecution and upon conviction to a maximum fine of $5 million and imprisonment for 14 years. A person using or possessing a forged Hong Kong identity card also commits an offence. Offenders are liable to prosecution and upon conviction to a maximum fine of $100,000 and imprisonment for 10 years.