14 arrested as police smash people-smuggling racket bringing Vietnamese illegal immigrants into Hong Kong
People paid syndicate, which had been operating for 6 months, up to HK$10,000 for journey to Hong Kong, police say
Hong Kong and mainland Chinese police have smashed a cross-border syndicate believed to have been smuggling Vietnamese migrants into the city via Shenzhen over the past six months, arresting 14 people in a joint operation.
Six of the suspects – five women and a man – were Vietnamese people picked up after arriving by speedboat at Long Ke Wan in Sai Kung Country Park early on Wednesday.
They were among 12 people, aged 20 to 60, rounded up in Hong Kong. Another two men were arrested in Guangdong province, according to Superintendent Simon Kwan King-pan of the local force’s Organised Crime and Triad Bureau.
The eight arrested who were not illegal immigrants were all believed to be core members of a people-smuggling racket that had been operating for at least six months. Police said the ones picked up in Hong Kong were two local taxi drivers, three mainland visitors and an asylum seeker from Vietnam.
According to police, illegal immigrants went to southern China’s Guangxi province, which borders Vietnam, and were then transported to Guangdong before the syndicate arranged a speedboat to smuggle them from Shenzhen to Hong Kong.
“Our intelligence indicated illegal immigrants were each charged HK$8,000 (US$1,025) to HK$10,000 for the journey to Hong Kong,” Kwan said.
He said the migrants were usually collected at landing black spots at Long Ke Wan or the shore off High Island Reservoir in the country park and then taken to urban areas by taxi.
Kwan said some came to work illegally or to meet their family and it was possible others wanted to seek asylum in Hong Kong.
Police in Hong Kong and Guangdong swooped into action on Tuesday night after intelligence indicated the syndicate was planning another smuggling trip.
In Hong Kong, officers had been lying in wait in the country park from 9pm and spotted a speedboat at Long Ke Wan shortly after midnight. The boat later headed back towards the mainland.
Before daybreak, police arrested a cabby and five illegal immigrants after intercepting a taxi at Tso Wo Hang off Tai Mong Tsai Road, Sai Kung. Officers arrested another cabby and two visitors from the mainland in another taxi on Sai Kung Man Yee Road in the country park.
Fewer illegal immigrants arrested in Hong Kong after joint crackdown on people smugglers with mainland police
Police also caught an illegal immigrant and two alleged syndicate members – a mainland visitor and an asylum seeker from Vietnam – at the reservoir’s east dam in the country park.
By Wednesday afternoon, the 12 suspects were still being held for questioning and none had been charged. Police said further arrests were possible.
Immigration Department figures showed that up to March 31, the city had a backlog of about 4,420 asylum applications, 297 of the applicants from Vietnam.