More armed Vietnamese IIs sneaking in

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 03 November, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 03 November, 2002, 12:00am

More and more armed Vietnamese illegal immigrants are sneaking into Hong Kong to carry out robberies, despite an overall drop in the numbers arrested since the handover, according to a police source.

Official statistics show that arrests of Vietnamese illegals in possession of weapons totalled two cases in 1997, one in 1998, nine in both 1999 and 2000, and seven last year.

So far this year, there have been five similar arrests, the most worrying of which was the seizure of 10 detonators and an array of weapons from 14 Vietnamese who arrived by boat in Stanley last month. The detonators were found on one of them.

A police spokesman said the seizure of the detonators was the only explosives-related case involving Vietnamese illegal immigrants since 1997.

Beside the detonators, police also seized three bullets, five knives, an ice pick and several hammers and screwdrivers.

Police alleged the Vietnamese were planning a robbery.

Several members of the group allegedly tied up a 66-year-old caretaker at knifepoint and robbed him of $3,000, a watch and three walkie-talkies inside the first-aid room of a water sports centre in Stanley after their wooden boat ran aground at St Stephen's Beach.

Each of the detonators, measuring 4cm long and 8mm in diameter, contained about one gram of explosive. Police said the devices were in working order.

The spokesman said the majority of the Vietnamese illegals committed immigration-related offences and only a small number of these cases were related to the possession of simple offensive weapons.

The source said a lot of the Vietnamese sneaked into Hong Kong for quick cash.

He said investigations revealed that Vietnamese illegal immigrants came to Hong Kong mainly for economic reasons. Rumours are rife in Vietnam that there are plenty of jobs in major public and private construction projects in Hong Kong.

The police spokesman said that so far there was no indication that the Vietnamese illegal immigrants were brought in to commit serious crimes.

Though the number of Vietnamese illegals arrested has declined from 1,722 in 1997 to 186 in the first nine months of this year, the number of crimes committed by them has not come down. Apart from serious immigration violations, the number of offences committed by this group averages at about 40 each year.

The spokesman said the police would closely monitor the Vietnamese illegals situation and continue to maintain a high level of vigilance in intercepting them.

The government would also liaise with the Vietnamese government to ensure timely intelligence reports to prevent any future influx of illegal immigrants, he said.