To the sound of cannon fire and thunder of kettle drums, three Hong Kong police launches docked at Huangpu in Guangzhou yesterday. More than 130 marine police stepped off the boats to an elaborate welcome by Guangdong's Border Defence Bureau. The reason for the trip may have been a simple return visit after the Guangdong border defence patrols visited Hong Kong on June 11, but more pressing issues were at hand. Illegal immigration, cross-border crime, and patrol of the Hong Kong and Macau frontier was thrashed out in a series of meetings throughout the day. Speaking at the welcoming ceremony, Hong Kong's Director of Operations Benny Ng Ching-kwok said the visit strengthens ties between Hong Kong and Guangdong and works to ensure the prosperity and stability of the region. 'Sharing experience and the exchange of intelligence are vital to intercept Vietnamese boat people and cracking down on smuggling, illegal immigration and criminal activities at sea,' Mr Ng said. 'The close co-operation between police on both sides in the past few years has really helped maintain law and order in Hong Kong and Guangdong waters,' he said. Guangdong Border Defence Bureau Director Lin Jieyuan said the one-day visit would enhance future co-operative efforts. 'Together we will deal a blow to illegal immigration, smuggling, cross-border crime, and prepare for the return of Macau to the mainland.' He characterised the relationship between the two forces as good. 'We have a routine exchange of information and we are able to take measures as necessary,' he said. But Mr Lin warned such efforts required more work. 'We still have a long way to go,' he said. 'At the Hong Kong and Macau border, illegal migrant activities oscillate, snakeheads remain active, and smuggling activities have not stopped.' Mr Lin said plans for joint manoeuvres between the two forces would happen 'when conditions are ripe'.