Over the past five years, 411 beggars from mainland China have been arrested in Hong Kong. The Secretary for Security Lai Tung-kwok disclosed the figure in response to a question by lawmaker Wong Ting-kwong at a Legislative Council meeting on Wednesday. Of those 411 panhandlers, 306 have been prosecuted.
Wong raised concerns over the “increasing number of people who are physically handicapped, old or dressed as monks [who] beg or appeal for money on the streets”. Many of them are suspected to be from mainland China.
In a written reply, Lai said that those arrested entered Hong Kong with two-way permits. They are mostly found in areas around Central and Yau Tsim Mong districts. However, there are no statistics on their physical conditions, or whether they are repeated offenders.
Lai said that the Hong Kong Police will investigate anyone suspected of begging activities, whether or not the suspect is from mainland. The force also works closely with mainland law enforcement agencies to gather information on these activities.
Concern was also raised over persons dressed as monks trying to collect alms. The Hong Kong Buddhist Association said that monks would only raise funds in a lawful manner, according to Wong.
Lai urged the public to report any unlawful fundraising activities from these persons.
Under Section 26A of the Summary Offences Ordinance, the punishment for begging is up to one month of imprisonment for a first or second offence, and up to 12 months for a third and subsequent offence. All convicted offenders are liable to a HK$500 fine.
In 2014, i-Cable reported that some mainland beggars entered Hong Kong as a part of an organised beggar syndicate. The leader of the group organised begging locations and took a share of the money earned through panhandling by others in the group, the report said.