SCMP Thursday, August 3, 2000


Tung orders stepped-up safety measures


Immediate steps will be taken to step up security in and around Immigration Tower after Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa last night ordered an urgent security review.

Mr Tung issued the order after visiting Eastern Hospital where an immigration officer lay critically injured. "We must work to ensure the safety of our Immigration Department colleagues. We will look into all the details relating to this issue," he said.

Earlier, Director of Immigration Ambrose Lee Siu-kwong expressed anger at the violence directed at his staff, saying he felt "very sorry and very bad for my staff".

It is understood police and the Immigration Department will co-operate on improving security at the office block.

Patrols will cover the immediate areas outside the office building, in the lobby and on the first two floors where department officers enter restricted areas before taking lifts to upper floor offices.

Currently, only one or two security guards hired from a private company keep watch and check the identity cards of department officers at the entrance to restricted areas.

Last night, police said: "In addition to normal patrols [outside the building], police will deploy sufficient manpower to perform crowd-control duties when necessary."

An Immigration Department spokesman said security was now a priority but declined to give details. "Obviously it's a priority review so we don't know what the outcome will be," he said.

The same spokesman insisted yesterday's violence was not the result of lax security because it occurred on the 13th floor in a public office. "The 13th floor is an open area where people can come in and give themselves up if they are overstayers or if they want to report on an overstayer," he said. "By definition, we can't make that a restricted area."

A senior Wan Chai district police officer said channels already existed to ensure immediate deployment of officers in an emergency.

But security inside the building would be the responsibility of the Immigration Department. "We can offer security advice but I don't think we could actually station officers permanently at the department," the police officer said.