Immigration authorities have launched an investigation into an alleged blunder in which a Hong Kong man was believed to have been let through the Lok Ma Chau border checkpoint into Shenzhen using his elderly father's identity card.
A legislator called the incident 'a major security issue', while the immigration staff union admitted it might have been due to human error.
'It is the immigration officers' responsibility to check carefully the documents of every single visitor before letting him or her in or out,' Democrat James To Kun-sun, who chairs the Legislative Council's security panel, said yesterday. 'We cannot afford to be negligent. What if the man was a terrorist?'
The 33-year-old man was passing through the checkpoint at about 1am on Thursday. He was cleared by an immigration officer but soon discovered he had used his father's ID.
He went back to inform immigration officers and was taken away for questioning. The officers, he said, reported to their supervisors that they had intercepted a visitor using someone else's identity card.
The man suspected the officers did so to cover up the blunder. The officers asked him to find his father to retrieve his own ID to prove his identity. He complied but complained that he was forced to take the risk of being arrested by police in case he was intercepted, as the immigration officers refused to issue him a document to certify his status.
The man believed he had mistakenly swapped his identity card with his father's after they returned to Hong Kong together from a trip to Shenzhen the day before. His father is 63 and uses a wheelchair.
Immigration Service Officers Association vice-chairman Ngai Sik-shui said he appreciated officers faced huge work stress because of a staff shortage.
But he said: 'That should not be an excuse. There are comprehensive guidelines for officers on how to process a visitor at the border.'
An Immigration Department spokesman said yesterday an investigation was under way but declined to comment further.
In November 2002, a woman in her 40s managed to cross the Lo Wu checkpoint using her daughter's passport, which she had mistakenly taken while in a hurry. Immigration authorities said the woman resembled her daughter, who was in her 20s.
In August 2008, two Hong Kong boys mistakenly swapped their Hong Kong re-entry permits during a trip to the mainland with their families. On their return, one of the boys managed to slip through the Lok Ma Chau checkpoint, but his friend was detained at the Shenzhen Bay control point.