Authorities across the border have arrested two mainland Chinese men and seized a speedboat in connection with the death of a Hong Kong police officer killed during a maritime anti-smuggling operation last month.
The men, aged 31 and 35, were arrested last week by members of the Guangdong provincial public security department working with information provided by Hong Kong police. One is thought to have been driving the speedboat – fitted with six powerful outboard engines – at the time of the incident.
Senior Superintendent Tony Ho Chun-tung of the organised crime and triad bureau said authorities believed the men were part of a large cross-border smuggling ring that had seen 35 other members arrested in a crackdown that followed the death of Senior Inspector Lam Yuen-yee.
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Speaking at a press briefing on Monday, Ho also revealed more details about the death of the 37-year-old officer, who was thrown overboard along with three colleagues when their vessel was rammed by the speedboat they were trying to intercept off Shau Chau on September 25.
Two police vessels were involved in the chase, Ho said, with Lam on the one that took the lead.
“The suspects ignored repeated police warnings and fled at high speed. The speedboat suddenly altered its route, rapidly turning 90 degrees to the left and intentionally ramming the front of the police vessel. The vessel therefore capsized,” he said.
“The fierce collision left marks on the vessel, including a large hole on the right rear side. Some of the railings on the left rear section of the boat were also broken, and a large area of the hull’s bottom also showed signs of a collision.”
He added the speedboat was travelling at 40-50 knots when it struck the police vessel in mainland waters – about 300 metres outside Hong Kong’s normal jurisdiction.
An initial autopsy confirmed Lam was killed by drowning, Ho said, adding more arrests could still follow.
While Lam’s three fellow officers were rescued immediately by the police vessel travelling behind them, her body was found two days later in the waters off Yi O Hau on Lantau Island after a massive search-and-rescue operation.
Asked if the two suspects would stand trial in Hong Kong, Ho said no decision had yet been made and that discussions would take place with the Security Bureau and Department of Justice under mechanisms already in place.
The incident has sparked a major crackdown on the triad-run, cross-border smuggling business over the past two weeks.
The multi-department effort had so far led to the arrests of 365 people, aged 22 to 56, including the 35 believed to be part of the triad smuggling ring, Ho said on Monday. Mainland authorities have netted another dozen members of the same ring.
Local authorities have also seized 59 speedboats along with a record 1,700 tonnes of frozen meat worth HK$500 million (US$64.2 million).
In the first nine months of this year, police and customs officers have confiscated HK$730 million worth of luxury goods, frozen meat and other contraband in 61 cross-border maritime smuggling cases.
In comparison, they seized just HK$490 million worth of smuggled goods in the whole of last year.
Just last week, Hong Kong’s Customs and Excise Department made its largest-ever smuggling bust, seizing nearly 10 tonnes of shark fins as part of a record HK$210 million haul of luxury goods and endangered wildlife products destined for mainland China.
A traditional mourning ceremony to honour Lam will be held at the Universal Funeral Parlour in Hung Hom on November 2. She will then be given an official police funeral with full honours and laid to rest at Gallant Garden, a plot at the Wo Hop Shek Public Cemetery in Fanling reserved for civil servants who lost their lives in the line of duty.
Three customs officers were killed in January last year when their boat capsized in the waters off Hong Kong International Airport when chasing a smuggling boat. Two other crew members survived the accident.