Hong Kong police chief pledges to bring ‘cold-blooded criminals’ to justice after officer’s body found off Lantau Island

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Hong Kong’s police chief on Monday pledged to spare no effort in the fight against maritime smugglers, just hours after the discovery of the body of a senior inspector who went missing when her vessel was rammed by a speedboat and capsized during an operation two days ago.

Raymond Siu Chak-yee also promised to increase cooperation with mainland Chinese authorities and improve coordination among the city’s own departments to better tackle such crime.

“We will step up anti-smuggling enforcement actions. The purpose is to bring cold-blooded criminals to justice,” he said, noting maritime smuggling had increased while land border checkpoints were closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

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“Between 2017 and 2019, police arrested an average of [32] people in anti-smuggling operations each year. We arrested 66 people in 2020 and 46 suspects in just the first eight months of this year.”

Relatives of senior inspector Lam Yuen-yee arrive at Tai Lan Marine Police Base on Monday. Photo: K. Y. Cheng
Relatives of senior inspector Lam Yuen-yee arrive at Tai Lan Marine Police Base on Monday. Photo: K. Y. Cheng

According to the police chief, Senior Inspector Lam Yuen-yee, 37, and three colleagues were on board a high-speed boat during an anti-smuggling operation off Sha Chau at about 8am on Saturday.

Siu said that during the operation, their vessel was rammed by a smugglers’ boat and then capsized.

“They were trapped under the capsized vessel. Two of them managed to swim to the surface. Our reinforcement officers dived into the sea and rescued the third, but Lam went missing,” he said.

Emergency workers from the police force, Fire Services Department, Marine Department and Government Flying Service were all involved in the search and rescue operation.

Commissioner of Police Raymond Siu speaks to the press at Tai Lan Marine Police base on Monday after the discovery of senior inspector Lam Yuen-yee’s body. Photo: K. Y. Cheng
Commissioner of Police Raymond Siu speaks to the press at Tai Lan Marine Police base on Monday after the discovery of senior inspector Lam Yuen-yee’s body. Photo: K. Y. Cheng

As the site is near the maritime boundary with the mainland, police also sought help from cross-border authorities to conduct a search outside Hong Kong waters.

Lam’s body was finally found floating in the waters off Yi O Hau on Lantau Island at about 8am on Monday.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, who is now in Shaanxi province for China’s 14th National Games, issued a statement expressing her sadness over the senior inspector’s death.

“Maintaining law and order on the front line, police have always been committed to their duty to protect the life and property of members of the public and have been fearless in the face of danger, which is admirable,” she said.

A Hong Kong marine police vessel searches for missing officer Lam Yuen-yee on Sunday. Photo: Winson Wong
A Hong Kong marine police vessel searches for missing officer Lam Yuen-yee on Sunday. Photo: Winson Wong

“I and members of the public are profoundly grieved by the tragic loss of Ms Lam when she was on duty. The Civil Service Bureau and Hong Kong Police Force will make every effort to support her family.”

Secretary for Security Chris Tang Ping-keung, Chief Secretary John Lee Ka-chiu and Secretary for the Civil Service Patrick Nip Tak-kuen also issued separate statements expressing their deep sorrow and condolences to Lam’s family.

Lam Yuen-yee joined the police force as a constable in 2007 and was promoted to inspector in 2010. She joined the Marine Police in 2015 and was attached to the Small Boat Division.

Police and customs officers often conduct operations near Sha Chau to combat cross-border smuggling activities in which fishing boats, cargo vessels and speedboats carry products such as frozen meat from Hong Kong to the mainland.

In the first eight months of this year, customs officers confiscated HK$480 million (US$61.6 million) worth of luxury goods, frozen meat and other contraband in 52 maritime smuggling cases. By comparison, they seized HK$490 million worth of smuggled goods in 62 cases for the whole of 2020.

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