Hong Kong recorded 58,453 crime cases in the first eight months of this year, a 34.6 per cent increase compared with the same period last year. Violent crime also rose by 14 per cent to 6,495 cases, the city’s security minister has said.

Secretary for Security Chris Tang attributed the rise in overall crime to a 52.2 per cent year-on-year spike in fraud-related crime, adding that society’s return to normalcy after the Covid-19 pandemic was another factor behind the rise.

Secretary for Security Chris Tang & FCC Roland Wong
Secretary for Security Chris Tang and Fight Crime Committee member Roland Wong meeting the press on September 27, 2023. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

Speaking to reporters after a meeting with the Fight Crime Committee on Wednesday morning, Tang said that fraud-related crime accounted for 43.7 per cent of overall crime this year so far, while the number was 14.7 per cent in the same period in 2018. “It is a shocking increase,” Tang said in Cantonese.

Fraud-related crime included e-commerce and phone scams, as well as deceptions in investment and job searches, Tang said.

According to police data, fraud-related crime in Hong Kong has risen since the Covid-19 pandemic begun in 2020. In the first half of this year, there were 18,743 cases reported to the police, higher than the whole-year figure in 2020 and close to that in 2021. In 2022, there were 27,923 cases, a record high.

Phone fraud, in particular, rose by 73.6 per cent compared with the same period last year, averaging 272 cases per month, Tang said. He added that the government was cooperating with telecommunications providers to block suspicious numbers locally and overseas.

Tang also said that telecoms operators had suspended around 360,000 unregulated numbers and denied 100,000 SIM card registrations since the government rolled out a real-name SIM card registration programme in 2021, described at the time as an overdue move to fight regular crime.

"The police will by all means protect citizens from fraud," Tang said.

National Day security

During Wednesday's press conference, Tang also appealed to people who wanted to watch the National Day fireworks display on October 1 - the first since 2018 - to follow advice from police officers at the scene and to ensure public order.

Secretary for Security Chris Tang
Secretary for Security Chris Tang meeting the press on September 27, 2023. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

When asked by a reporter about security measures for China's National Day, Tang said that police had sufficient manpower and contingency plans to respond to different situations.

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Hans Tse is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press with an interest in local politics, academia, and media transformation. He was previously a social science researcher, with writing published in the Social Movement Studies and Social Transformation of Chinese Societies journals. He holds an M.Phil in communication from the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Before joining HKFP, He also worked as a freelance reporter for Initium between 2019 and 2021, where he covered the height - and aftermath - of the 2019 protests, as well as the sweeping national security law imposed by Beijing in 2020.