More tourists in Hong Kong bringing illegal extendable batons, airport police say
Detective says some visitors are unaware that possessing a baton is illegal and that majority of cases involve transiting passengers
More tourists in Hong Kong are bringing illegal extendable batons, having bought them from countries in the region where they are affordable and easily found, airport police have said.
In the first five months of 2018, 76 travellers were caught with the batons – cylindrical clubs made of different materials that are typically used by law enforcement officers. That compares with 89 cases for the whole of last year.
In Hong Kong, extendable batons are deemed a restricted item under the Aviation Security Ordinance. Offenders can be punished by a fine of up to HK$100,000 (US$12,700) and five years in jail. It is also unlawful to carry extendable batons in the city under the Weapons Ordinance.
Detective Inspector Benson Tse Chun-lam said last week the batons had become cheaper and more available in different countries, pointing to how 82 per cent of the arrested travellers had obtained their weapons in neighbouring countries.
“From questioning the tourists, we also noticed they usually didn’t think of the baton as a weapon and that’s why some of them were not aware that possessing a baton is illegal,” he explained.
Tse said more than half of the cases involved transiting passengers whose final destinations were not Hong Kong. In a case last month, a Canadian tourist had bought a baton in the Philippines and was arrested in the city en route home for possessing the item.
Tse pointed out that airport crimes had been declining – 989 cases in 2015, 712 in 2016, 689 last year and 273 in the first five months of this year. But what was “alarming” this year, he said, was that more than half the crimes, 154, involved people bringing in prohibited items, including extendable batons, stun guns and even bullets.
Tear gas spray, butterfly knifes, push daggers, brass knuckles and a crossbow were among the other confiscated items.
The maximum penalty in Hong Kong for possessing arms and ammunition such as stun guns is a HK$100,000 fine and 14 years in jail.
In light of the summer travel season, Tse advised visitors to stay vigilant during their plane rides to prevent in-flight theft. He said perpetrators often targeted medium and long-haul flights, looking for bags before take-off and even pretending to place luggage in the overhead cabin to scout items to steal.
As of the end of May, there were five reported cases of theft on planes bound for Hong Kong International Airport. The losses totalled HK$260,000 in value, and they included cash, watches, jewellery and smartphones. In one in-flight theft, about US$18,400 in cash was reported stolen on a plane going from Mauritius to Hong Kong.
The number of in-flight thefts have dwindled in the past few years – from 77 cases in 2015 to seven incidents last year.
Last August, a passenger caught sight of a suspicious man while flying to Hong Kong and reported the matter to cabin crew to notify police. It was found that another passenger had lost a watch and 10 US$100 banknotes from his carry-on luggage. Officers later made an arrest and the perpetrator was sentenced earlier this year to 10 months in jail for theft.
Tse suggested travellers refrain from keeping their valuable items inside overhead compartments and ask flight staff for help if they notice anyone suspicious.