Hong Kong police round up illegal immigrants and their snakeheads hiding in Shek O hills
Migrants all from Vietnam and include seven men and five women between the ages of 17 and 55
Police arrested 12 illegal immigrants and four human traffickers in a big operation on Friday, including eight people who had been hiding in the hills around Shek O.
The migrants – seven men and five women between the ages of 17 and 55 – were all from Vietnam. The traffickers, or so-called snakeheads, were members of a gang dedicated to smuggling Vietnamese people from mainland China to Hong Kong.
Officers from the Organised Crime and Triad Bureau arrested the people in the hills, near Cape D’Aguilar Road, early in the morning during a joint operation with their counterparts in Guangdong province.
“We knew some of the illegal immigrants were hiding in the mountains around Cape D’Aguilar and Shek O,” bureau superintendent Kwan King-pan said, adding that officers from the Police Tactical Unit were assisted by a helicopter from the Government Flying Services.
The other six arrests, including two snakeheads, were made near the Shau Kei Wan MTR station.
The two snakeheads arrested in Shau Kei Wan were a 46-year-old mainland Chinese man who holds a two-way permit, and a 38-year-old woman, believed to be a Vietnamese national but holding a Hong Kong ID card.
A third trafficker, a 35-year-old Vietnamese man, was arrested in Mong Kok later in the day, while the fourth snakehead, a 47-year-old mainland Chinese man who also holds a two-way permit, was arrested at the Lok Ma Chau control point in the evening.
On Friday, officers were still investigating where the group entered Hong Kong, but said they suspected they arrived in the area after midnight and tried to get to the urban centre through a mountain path.
“We believe the illegal immigrants first arrived in Guangxi [province, mainland China] from their home country. They entered the mainland and sneaked to Hong Kong illegally,” Kwan said.
Since early last year, police have been working with mainland authorities to step up efforts to combat gangs who smuggle people into the city.
According to the Security Bureau, police captured 219 non-ethnic Chinese illegal immigrants in the first quarter of this year, down 78 per cent compared with the same period last year.
South Asian illegal immigrants typically fly to Guangzhou before crossing the border, while Vietnamese people are smuggled by land to Guangxi province, which borders Vietnam. Once on the mainland, they are taken to coastal cities like Shenzhen and Dongguan, then smuggled into Hong Kong, most often by boat.
In May, seven illegal Vietnamese immigrants, including a baby girl, were arrested after a brief boat chase off the coast of Conic Island, in eastern Hong Kong waters. Two suspected snakeheads from the mainland were also arrested in that incident.
A total of 2,221 illegal immigrants were caught in 2016, compared to 3,819 arrested in 2015.
With additional reporting by Danny Mok