Letter: The People's Government is no friend of triads

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The Independent Online
YOUR article "Chinese rule boosts Hong Kong triads" (22 March) suggests that Hong Kong is dominated by criminal gangs - triads - who have gained unprecedented political protection since China's resumption of sovereignty in July 1997, and that Hong Kong has a triad membership of 120,000 who are responsible for over half reported crimes.

This is not true. The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government (HKSARG) enjoys a high degree of autonomy to maintain law and order under the mini-constitution governing the territory. There is no question of the Central People's Government in Beijing interfering with the maintenance of law and order in Hong Kong, let alone entering into alliances with triads.

Nobody in Hong Kong is above the law. In particular, we treat triad membership as a very serious offence. Any office-bearer of a triad society is liable to a fine of HK$1m and imprisonment for 15 years, and the maximum fine for a member is HK$250,000 and seven years' imprisonment.

There is no indication that triads in Hong Kong have assumed a higher profile or increased their activities since reunification. The ratio of triad involvement in overall crimes in the past five years has remained stable at less than 5 per cent. In the second half of 1997, the ratio was only 3.7 per cent. The number of triad-related crimes in the second half of 1997 dropped by 14 per cent year-on-year.

Hong Kong is one of the safest cities in the world with an overall crime rate roughly the same as Singapore and much lower than London, Tokyo and New York. The overall crime rate in 1997 was the lowest in the past 24 years. We will continue to send a strong and clear message to all criminals, including triads, that they have no business in Hong Kong and that they will not be tolerated here.

Peter Lai

Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government