Triad remarks 'give territory wrong image'

HONGKONG may get the image of being a ''triad paradise'' after recent mainland comments on the gangs, Legislative Councillor Mr James To Kun-sun said.

The United Democrat legislator and Mrs Elsie Tu, who is convenor of the Legco security panel, called on the Chinese Government to explain the remarks of Mr Tao Siju, China's public security minister.

Mr Tao said, after a meeting with heads of local crime syndicate Sun Yee On, that some triad members were ''patriotic''.

Mr To, who is also spokesman for the United Democrats on security, said the remark was astonishing and would severely undermine the rule of law in the territory.

''Mr Tao has given them a legitimate status by saying the triads are patriotic and have done good things,'' he said.

''This kind of comment will not only undermine the rule of law in the territory, but also affect the morale of local police officers.

''This is not in line with Hongkong laws. A person is guilty if he is a member of the triad, or has committed an offence. His motive behind the action, or his patriotism, cannot make him innocent,'' he added.

He was concerned that the Chinese ''acceptance'' of triad members would make the extradition of criminals more difficult.

''I am afraid this will cause other countries to believe that Hongkong has turned into a triads' paradise.'' Mr To also voiced fears that triads would use the mainland as a money-laundering centre. He suspected they had already invested heavily on the mainland.

''By labelling them patriotic, Chinese authorities could find justification to allow them to invest in the mainland and thereby help them launder their dirty money.

''This will run against our proposed amendments to the Organised and Serious Crime Bill which aims to freeze and confiscate crime proceeds. I am worried our efforts will go down the drain,'' he added.