Most of the marine police officers attending a seafood feast on Po Toi Island on Thursday were on duty, the deputy commissioner of police said yesterday.
Andy Tsang Wai-hung was responding to criticism that officers had used a HK$10 million police launch to take them to the island for a farewell party. Media reports of the incident prompted a marine police inquiry.
Tsang said he had already received an initial report, and confirmed that 29 officers had taken the launch to the island. 'Colleagues have explained to us what they were doing there. But we will investigate further,' he said.
The director of operations had been appointed to oversee an inquiry into whether the arrangements were a violation of police regulations, he said.
To ensure impartiality, the inquiry would use the resources of another police region rather than the marine police.
Responding to criticism that the police launch was misused, Tsang said: 'We expect each and every member of the police force to uphold a very high standard of discipline. We'll look into the matter seriously.'
The Chinese-language press reported that the group had a two-hour lunch on the island to bid farewell to two chief inspectors of the Marine Port District. The farewell party was held after an inspection on the island that lasted 'at least 15 minutes' as part of their anti-smuggling operations, an officer said.
Meanwhile, about 200 former and serving members of the marine police's Small Boat Unit and their families attended an open day at the division's headquarters to celebrate its 30th anniversary.
When the unit was formed in 1979, its main task was to combat the influx of illegal immigrants from the mainland, especially from Deep Bay and Mirs Bay. In the 1990s, its focus turned to anti-smuggling operations, mainly intercepting the high-powered speedboats favoured by smugglers.
The unit, which is equipped with eight fast-pursuit craft and five Cougartek high-speed interceptors, now spends much of its time patrolling the seas to combat the smuggling of non-Chinese illegal immigrants.
'In recent months we've noted a significant trend of non-ethnic Chinese illegal immigrants seeking to come to Hong Kong through sea routes,' Superintendent John Cameron said.