Curfew set to go despite rise in IIs
A BORDER-AREA curfew, maintained to fight against illegal immigration, will be dropped from August 1, despite record numbers of illegals being caught.
About 37,517 illegals were arrested last year, the highest in 12 years, and this year more than 15,500 have been apprehended. About 35,600 were caught in 1992.
A Security Branch spokesman said the high numbers could not be put down to any particular reason, although influxes could be influenced by the weather, rumours of jobs and snakehead activities.
The branch decided to lift the curfew after taking into account the rights of villagers in the area.
Since 1952, people in the closed-frontier area have been required to stay indoors from midnight to 4 am, unless they had a police pass.
The curfew was introduced to combat gun-running during the Korean war and was maintained to control illegal immigration.
Most of the population is concentrated in Sha Tau Kok, the town that straddles the Hong Kong-Chinese border. About 6,000 people live on the Hong Kong side.
The mostly elderly residents have been pressing for an end to the curfew.
Police earlier said nobody openly flouted the curfew, but some were frustrated that they had to leave friends' homes early or stay overnight when they visited.
The curfew was not believed to violate the Bill of Rights, but the Security Branch said it was being lifted ''to balance individual rights and the need to combat illegal immigration''.
Controls on illegal immigrants will be continued through the requirement that all residents carry Frontier Closed Area permits, which they will have to produce along with their identity cards if asked by police.
Security in the area will also be bolstered by a $52.5 million project to strengthen the border fence from Mai Po to Sha Tau Kok.
The branch said about 30 per cent of illegal immigrants were caught while trying to enter Hong Kong. About 60 per cent of all arrested illegals come by sea.