A mainland security vessel accidentally entered Hong Kong waters during an anti-smuggling operation and ran aground on a beach near Nam Chung village in Tai O on Tuesday, the government has said.

A Zhuhai Municipal Public Security Bureau vessel carrying four mainland officers had entered Hong Kong waters while pursuing a suspected smuggling vessel “for the safety of the officers and the vessel,” a government statement read.

A smuggling boat spotted in southern Lantau waters. File Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

Another vessel from the mainland bureau was later deployed to rescue the grounded security speedboat. Nobody was injured in the incident and both vessels had returned to the mainland by Tuesday evening.

Local police responded to reports of the incident and later arrested a 46-year-old mainland man for illegal immigration in Tai O Tsuen. They also seized a suspected smuggling vessel.

“Hong Kong Police will continue to liaise with Zhuhai Municipal Public Security Bureau on the case,” the statement read.

In response to HKFP’s queries, the Security Bureau said local law enforcement has maintained “close communications” with authorities in other jurisdictions with the view of “jointly combatting cross-boundary crimes.”

“These collaborations and communications are based on the principle that law enforcement agencies take enforcement actions in their respective jurisdictions,” the statement on Wednesday read.

Smuggling operations

Smuggling operations between Hong Kong and the mainland have increased substantially in the past year due to on-land travel restrictions during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Tai O. File Photo: HKFP/Catherine Lai.

Hong Kong law enforcement have also launched an intensified crackdown on smugglers after a policewoman died last month while on duty when a smuggling vessel collided with her boat, causing it to capsize.

As of last Monday, police said they have arrested 365 people in relation to smuggling operations within a fortnight, seizing over 50 boats carrying contraband meat.

Correction 15:00: Owing an error introducing during editing, a previous headline incorrectly suggested that two vessels had run aground. Only one vessel ran aground.

Update 20.10.21: This article has been updated to include the Security Bureau’s comments.

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Rhoda Kwan

Rhoda Kwan is HKFP's Assistant Editor. She has previously written for TimeOut Hong Kong and worked at Meanjin, a literary journal. She holds a double bachelor’s degree in Law and Literature from the University of Hong Kong.