Hong Kong’s crime figures dropped to 26,550 cases during the first six months of 2018 – the lowest since 1977 when half-year crime statistics were first tracked. However, the police pointed to a rise in fraud cases, including romance scams, employment fraud and hacking of instant messaging applications.

Police spokespersons at a press conference on Wednesday said that the overall crime situation in the first half of 2018 “remained stable,” with a decrease of 6.2 per cent in the overall crime rate compared to the same period last year. Police said there were 4,361 violent crime cases recorded, which represented a decrease of 3.2 per cent over the corresponding period last year.

police protest
Photo: HKFP/Ellie Ng.

Crimes that recorded increases included homicide, wounding and serious assault, indecent assault and deception.

Police said there were 3,671 cases of deception, a 3.1 per cent increase: 272 were romance scams, 69 were employment frauds, 90 were investment frauds, and 382 were cases involving hacking of instant messaging. Police recorded a four-fold increase in instant messaging hacking and a 3.3 fold increase in employment fraud.

“Deception, facilitated by the use of technology such as social media platforms, remains one of the greatest challenges of the force in recent years,” said the Police Director of Crime and Security Li Chi-hang.

july 1 police protest
Police officers at the July 1 protest. Photo: inmediahk.net.

“Criminals committed crimes by taking advantage of the extensive, anonymous and cross-boundary nature of the cyber world, and that the lack of knowledge of some people about emerging industries and information technology also allowed the criminals to convince victims to send money with various excuses,” Li said.

A total of 109 people were arrested over deception cases, which involved over 700 victims and losses of HK$253 million in total.

Hong Kong National Party

When asked by reporters about the potential ban on the Hong Kong National Party, Director of Operations Tang Ping-keung said that the police would handle cases in accordance with law and evidence. He would not comment on the case regarding HKNP.

Independence advocates at a protest on July 21. Photo: PH Yang.

Tang also declined to comment on the dossier compiled by the police on HKNP, and under what circumstances the police would collect information on individuals. He also did not say whether the police held dossiers on other organisations.

“We will handle any case in accordance with the law and in a neutral manner. In the case [of HKNP], we have considered the case and our evidence, and made a recommendation according to section 8 of the Societies Ordinance,” Tang said.

“Since the Secretary for Security has already given 21 days for relevant persons to make representations, I will not comment on the case to avoid affecting them,” he added.

24 officers arrested

Police also revealed that 24 police officers were arrested in the first half of 2018, 11 more than in the same period last year. Eighteen officers were arrested for criminal offences, five were arrested for non-criminal offences such as traffic offences, and one was arrested by another law enforcement agency.

Holmes Chan is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. He covers local news with a focus on law, politics, and social movements. He studied law and literature at the University of Hong Kong.