It has been reported that a civilian passenger aircraft went missing over the waters near Vietnam on the 8th of last month, and subsequent investigation uncovered that some passengers might have boarded the plane on passports which had been reported missing. As pointed out by the International Criminal Police Organization, the relevant information on those passports has long been listed in the Stolen and Lost Travel Documents database (passport database). Although the database contains information on more than 40 million stolen and lost passports issued by a number of countries, the law enforcement departments of only a small number of countries have systematically made use of the database for passport checking. Regarding protection of aviation safety, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) of the number of cases in the past three years in which residents of Hong Kong reported their Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) passports missing, and the distribution of the locations at which the passports were lost or stolen; the number of cases in which people entering or departing Hong Kong with fake passports or other people’s passports were intercepted by the authorities during the same period, the nationalities of the people concerned, and whether the authorities are aware of the illegal activities they intended to engage in at the destinations;
(2) whether the authorities proactively and systematically searched and perused the information in the passport database in the past three years; if they did not, of the reasons for that; whether the authorities have established a separate database for HKSAR passports which have been reported missing; if they have, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and
(3) whether it has, in response to the aforesaid incident, reviewed the procedures for conducting passport and security checks on air passengers; if it has, of the details, including whether it will implement improvement measures to ensure the safety of aircraft departing Hong Kong?
The reply is as follows:
(1) Over the past three years, the number of HKSAR passports reported lost and the locations where they were lost is set out as follows:
Year Number of HKSAR Lost in Lost
passports Hong Kong outside
reported lost Hong Kong
2011 8 439 6 906 1 533
2012 9 437 7 745 1 692
2013 10 676 8 829 1 847
Total 28 552 23 480 5 072
Over the same period, the number of forged travel documents detected at the Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) by the Immigration Department (ImmD), including using forged documents, lost documents and documents relating to other persons is set out as follows:
Year Number of forged travel documents
detected at the HKIA
Total 1 181
The ImmD does not maintain other breakdown statistics mentioned in the question.
As we understand it, the main purpose of people using forged travel documents is to conceal their true identities or previous adverse records, so as to enable them to engage in illegal activities such as employment, travel or residence through entering or transitting through Hong Kong to overseas countries or regions.
(2) Through an established mechanism, the ImmD maintains close liaison with overseas, Mainland and local law enforcement agencies and actively exchanges information concerning problematic travel documents with them. Under existing arrangements, details of stolen, invalidated or lost travel documents reported by the competent issuing authority (including HKSAR passports) will be placed in the watchlist. Any person attempting to use problematic travel documents to enter or depart Hong Kong commits an offence and is liable upon conviction to a maximum penalty of 14 years’ imprisonment.
Immigration officers at the control points are trained in examination of travel documents and they will continue to maintain vigilance in conducting arrival and departure clearance to stop anyone from using problematic travel documents to enter or depart Hong Kong. In case a suspect travel document is encountered, immigration officers will conduct further examination on the passenger concerned and seek further verification from the issuing or appropriate authority when necessary. Moreover, the ImmD’s Anti-illegal Migration Agency stops and inspects suspicious arriving and departing air passengers and examines their travel documents with a view to preventing forged travel documents from being used in illegal migration activities in Hong Kong.
(3) Aviation security measures of the HKIA are specified in the Hong Kong Aviation Security Programme (HKASP). The specified aviation security measures and requirements meet the relevant recommended standards of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). According to the HKASP, the identity document as well as the hold and cabin baggage of flight passengers using HKIA shall be checked. Such procedures include that aircraft operators should verify details of the identity document and the air ticket to ensure that they tally; they should conduct aircraft operators’ baggage acceptance check at the counter to ensure that the baggage is accepted from the said passenger. The Aviation Security Company is responsible for conducting passenger security checks and x-ray screening of hold and cabin baggage. Moreover, before passenger boarding, aircraft operators should verify again details of the passenger’s identity document and the boarding pass. Aircraft operators should also ensure that all passengers tendering baggage are on board.
The Government will continue to closely monitor the aviation security enhancement measures stipulated and announced by the ICAO and other relevant authorities. The Civil Aviation Department will, on a need basis, require the aviation industry, such as the Airport Authority, aircraft operators and others to implement enhancement measures on a timely basis.