Security officials at airport must never let their guard down

Recent breaches at Hong Kong International Airport may appear trivial but they are just the laxity that terrorists are looking for

PUBLISHED : Monday, 25 April, 2016, 12:50am
UPDATED : Monday, 25 April, 2016, 1:04am

The attack on the Brussels airport last month made plain why terrorists like to target commercial aviation. With a small amount of explosives, they can cause multiple casualties, havoc for travellers and gain maximum attention. Hong Kong International Airport, as one of the world’s major transport hubs, therefore needs to be ever alert to potential threats and have in place the tightest security. Recent lapses are cause for concern.

The latest incident involves a young woman found wandering near a far-flung boarding gate in Terminal 1 without a boarding pass or passport. An investigation has shown she slipped unnoticed past a guard busy dealing with another traveller at the entrance to the restricted area. Fortunately, she had no sinister motives; a psychiatric patient, she was noticed muttering to herself by another guard and turned over to police. As a result, an extra layer of security has been introduced with passengers now having to present their boarding pass when having hand luggage X-rayed.

Security officials were already smarting over an incident involving the youngest daughter of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, who had noticed at her boarding gate that she had left her hand luggage in the arrivals area of the terminal. The bag was passed to her through the restricted zone after first going through the security check without her having to retrieve it, sparking a political storm centred on abuse of power. In another case last year, a pregnant mainland woman was able to stay unnoticed in the transit section of the airport for a week in hopes of being able to give birth in the city. She was later given a six-month prison sentence, although it was never explained how she had eluded airport staff.

China is not involved in the fight against Islamic State extremists, so Hong Kong would seem immune to their attacks. But such an assumption is flawed; terrorism knows no boundaries. Our airport should at no time be considered off the terrorist radar. Breaches in security, no matter how insignificant they may seem, have to be treated seriously.