- Customs and Excise Department (Hong Kong)
Customs and Excise Department 香港海關 heung1gong2 hoi2gwaan1 Agency overview Formed 1909 Superseding agency Hong Kong Customs Jurisdiction Hong Kong Headquarters 8th Floor Harbour Building, 38 Pier Road, Central Employees 5,632 (March 2008)  Annual budget 2,308.1m HKD (2008-09)  Agency executives Richard Yuen, JP, Commissioner of Customs and Excise
Ho Lok Au Yeung, Deputy Commissioner
Parent agency Security Bureau (Hong Kong) Website www.customs.gov.hk
The Customs and Excise Department (C&ED, simplified Chinese: 香港海关; traditional Chinese: 香港海關; Mandarin Pinyin: Xiānggǎng hǎiguān; Jyutping: hoeng1 gong2 hoi2gwaan1; Cantonese Yale: heung1 gong2 hoi2gwaan1) is a government agency responsible for the protection of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region against smuggling; the protection and collection of Government revenue on dutiable goods; the detection and deterrence of drug trafficking and abuse of controlled drugs; the protection of intellectual property rights; the protection of consumer interests; and the protection and facilitation of legitimate trade and upholding Hong Kong’s trading integrity.
Originally, Hong Kong Customs was Import and Export Management Predecessor, was founded in 1909, initially it was responsible for the main revenue protection work. In 1949, Import and Export Management and Supplies Department, The Department of Trade and Industry Department merged into the Department of Trade and Industry. Trade and Industry Department in 1962 set up Revenue Service. In 1977, it was renamed The Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department. On 1 August 1982, The Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department became independent from Trade and Industry Department.
The department is headed by the Commissioner of Customs and Excise. As at 1 April 2004, the department has an establishment of 4 931 posts, of which nine are directorate officers, 3 804 are members of the Customs and Excise Service, 504 are Trade Controls Officers and 614 are staff of the General and Common Grades.
There are five branches:
The Administration and Excise Branch
This is responsible for matters relating to dutiable commodities under the purview of the Financial Services and the Treasury Bureau, the international customs liaison and cooperation and the overall staff management and general administration of the Customs and Excise Service, including staff training, planning and provision of resources and department al facilities; and the housekeeping of the Office of Dutiable Commodities Administration, the Customs Liaison Bureau, the Office of Management Services, the Office of Service Administration and the Office of Training and Development.
The Boundary and Ports Branch
This is responsible for matters relating to import and export controls under the purview of the Security Bureau and the housekeeping of the Airport Command, Control Points Command and the Ports and Maritime Command.
The Intelligence and Investigation Branch
This branch is responsible for matters relating to recreational drugs and anti-smuggling activities under the schedule of the Security Bureau and issues relating to intellectual property under the purview of the Commerce, Industry and Technology Bureau; formulation of policies and strategies regarding the applicatioon of intelligence and risk management in Customs operations and the housekeeping of the Customs Drug Investigation Bureau, the Intellectual Property Investigation Bureau, the Intelligence Bureau, the Revenue and General Investigation Bureau and the Special Task Force.
The Trade Controls Branch
This branch is responsible for trade controls matters under the schedule of the Commerce, Industry and Technology Bureau and consumer protection matters under the schedule of the Economic Development and Labour Bureau, and comprises the Textiles Tactical Investigation Bureau, the Trade Inspection and Verification Bureau, the Trade Investigation Bureau, the General Investigation and Systems Bureau and the Consumer Protection and Prosecution Bureau.
The Civil Secretariat
This is responsible for all matters concerning departmental administration, financial management, information technology development and internal audit. The branch comprises the Office of Departmental Administration, the Office of Financial Administration, the Office of Information Technology, the Internal Audit Division and the Information Unit.
Protection of revenue
There is no tariff on goods entering Hong Kong, but excise duties are charged on four groups of commodities. These commodities are hydrocarbon oil, liquor, methyl alcohol and tobacco. These duties make no differentiation between imported commodities, or commodities manufactured locally for domestic consumption.
In 2003, the C&ED collected $6,484 million excise duty. Under the Dutiable Commodities Ordinance, the C&ED controls breweries, distilleries, tobacco factories, oil installations, ship and aircraft duty-free stores, and industrial and commercial establishments dealing with dutiable commodities; and supervises licensed, general bonded and public bonded warehouses.
Licences are issued to those who import, export, manufacture or store dutiable commodities. The C&ED also assesses the First Registration Tax of vehicles under the Motor Vehicle (First Registration Tax) Ordinance. The Anti-illicit Cigarette Investigation Division is specially tasked to detect syndicated smuggling, distribution and peddling of dutiable cigarettes. The Diesel Oil Enforcement Division focuses its efforts on detecting the smuggling and misuse of illicit fuels.
Prevention and detection of smuggling
The C&ED prevents and detects smuggling activities under the Import and Export Ordinance and enforces the licensing controls on prohibited articles by inspecting cargoes imported and exported by air, sea and land; processing passengers and their baggage at entry /exit points; and searching aircraft, vessels and vehicles entering and leaving Hong Kong. The Joint Police/Customs Anti-Smuggling Task Force is dedicated to combating smuggling activities by sea. The Control Points Investigation Division is tasked to strengthen the intelligence collection capability at the land boundary and suppress the cross-boundary smuggling activities.
The Hong Kong International Airport is one of the busiest airports in the world with a daily arrival of about 257 scheduled flights, bringing into Hong Kong a daily average of 25 989 passengers and 2 838 tonnes of imported cargoes. In 2003, the throughput of air passengers was 19 million whereas the throughput of air cargoes was about 2.64 million tonnes.
Hong Kong is one of the busiest container ports in the world. It handled 20.4 million TEUs (20-foot equivalent units) in 2003. Of these, 12.1 million TEUs were handled at the Kwai Chung Container Terminal. In 2003, 70 910 ocean-going ships and 365 190 coastal vessels entered and left Hong Kong.
Ships and vessels are subject to customs check. Cargoes are either examined on board sea freighters or after off-loading.
In 2003, a total of 8.6 million passengers arrived in Hong Kong from the Mainland and Macau by sea and by helicopters. They were processed at the China Ferry Terminal in Tsim Sha Tsui and the Hong Kong-Macau Ferry Terminal in Central. In addition, a daily average of 49 helicopter flights between Hong Kong and Macau are operated at the Hong Kong-Macau Ferry Terminal. Four Customs launches conduct maritime patrol in the territorial waters round the clock whereas four high-speed pursuit crafts and two shallow water patrol launches are employed to carry out interception at sea.
On average, 156,339 passengers arrive from the Mainland by land daily and they are processed at Man Kam To, Sha Tau Kok, Lok Ma Chau and Lo Wu control points. Additionally, 2,991 passengers enter Hong Kong by through-trains and are processed at Hung Hom Railway Station. Goods imported by road are checked at Man Kam To, Sha Tau Kok and Lok Ma Chau. In 2003, over 20 million tonnes of cargoes were imported through the land boundary control points.
Border Control Points
- Man Kam To - custom station handling autos and lorries; 4 lane bridge across Shenzhen River
- Sha Tau Kok - customer station handling autos and lorries
- Lok Ma Chau - large custom station handling auto and lorries; multi-lane bridge across Shenzhen
- Hong Kong China Ferry Terminal, Tsim Sha Tsui
- Hong Kong-Macau Ferry Terminal
- Hong Kong International Airport
The C&ED and the Hong Kong Police Force (HKPF) are responsible for anti-drug law enforcement. Both have achieved encouraging results in recent years. Seizures of illicit drugs in 2003 included 52.87 kilograms of heroin, 562.15 kilograms of herbal cannabis, 24.46 kilograms of cannabis resin, 8.33 kilograms of cocaine, 41.1 kilograms and 1 272 tablets of methylamphetamine, 35.56 kilograms and 141 038 tablets of ecstasy-type tablets (MDMA, etc.), 51.3 kilograms and 238 tablets of ketamine, and substantial quantities of various narcotics, analgesics and tranquillisers.
A total of 8,652 persons were arrested for drug offences of whom 2,827 were arrested for major offences such as drug trafficking and manufacturing, and the remaining 5 825 were arrested for minor offences such as possession of illicit drugs.
Apart from intercepting smuggling of drugs at entry/exit control points, the department launches proactive investigations and surveillance operations on syndicated drug trafficking activities throughout Hong Kong. The department also flexibly deploys drug detector dogs and introduces advanced technologies, such as Mobile X-ray Vehicle Scanning Systems and Vehicle X-ray Inspection Systems, to assist anti-drug work.
In addition, the department closely monitors the trend of drug abuse, in particular the growing popularity of psychotropic substances among the young and cross boundary drug crimes. The C&ED also investigates laundering of drug proceeds and initiates applications for freezing and confiscating assets derived from drug trafficking. Suspected drug-related assets worth $1.18 million were frozen, awaiting confiscation proceedings.
The department enforces a licensing system to control the import, export and dealing of 25 specific precursor chemicals which can be used for the manufacture of dangerous drugs. It exchanges intelligence and co-operates closely with the HKPF and various drug enforcement agencies on the Mainland and overseas in the fight against drug traffickers both locally and at international level.
Trade controls and consumer protection
The C&ED safeguards the certification and licensing systems which are of vital importance to Hong Kong’s trading integrity. The department deters and investigates offences of origin fraud, circumvention of textiles licensing and quota control. It also investigates offences of import and export of strateg commodities and other prohibited articles not under and in accordance with a licence.
The department carries out cargo examination at control points, factory inspections, factory audit checks and consignment checks. It is also the department’s enforcement strategy to administer a monetary reward scheme to encourage the supply of information on textile origin fraud.
The department is a member of the Hong Kong Compliance Office set up to assist the Central People's Government in implementing the Chemical Weapons Convention in Hong Kong. The department enforces licensing control on rice and consumer protection legislation relating to weights and measures, markings on fineness of precious metals, and safety of toys, children’s products and consumer goods. The department also verifies import and export declarations to ensure accurate trade statistics and assesses and collects declaration charges and the clothing industry training levy.
In 2002/03, the department collected $848 million in declaration charges and $19.9 million in clothing industry training levies.
Intellectual property rights protection
The C&ED has the mission to defend the interests of intellectual property rights owners and legitimate traders through staunch enforcement of the Copyright Ordinance, the Trade Descriptions Ordinance and the Prevention of Copyright Piracy Ordinance.
The department investigates and prosecutes copyright offences relating to literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works, sound recordings, cinematographic films, broadcasts and other published works under the Copyright Ordinance. It also takes enforcement action against commercial goods with forged trademark or false label under the Trade Descriptions Ordinance.
At the manufacture level, the Prevention of Copyright Piracy Ordinance requires local optical disc and stamper manufacturers to obtain licences from the department and mark on all their products specific identification codes. The Import and Export Ordinance imposes licensing controls on the import and export of optical disc mastering and replication equipment. A 147-strong Special Task Force has also been playing an important role in combating copyright piracy, and serves as a mobile brigade to reinforce the suppression of other customs-related crimes.
The C&ED is an active member of the World Customs Organization (WCO) and Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC). It exchanges intelligence and works closely with overseas customs administrations and law enforcement agencies. The department has also entered bilateral Cooperative Arrangements with other customs authorities on administrative assistance. At the working level, the department and the Mainland customs have each established designated liaison officers to facilitate the exchange of intelligence through direct telephone hotlines.
Seizures and prosecutions
In 2003, the C&ED seized a total of $1,244 million worth of goods. They included illicit drugs valued at $45 million; infringing goods worth $229 million; counterfeit goods worth $120 million; smuggled merchandises worth $541 million; dutiable commodities worth $284 million.
During the year, the C&ED prosecuted 7,184 persons and firms under various laws enforced by the department.
Fines amounted to $31.83 million and 4,351 custodial sentences, aggregated to 1,671 years and 11 months, were imposed on convicted persons. Among the prosecutions, 803 were cases relating to unlawful commercial malpractices such as violation of licensing controls of strategic commodities, supplying false information in applications for certificate of origin, textile licensing frauds and contravention of consumer protection legislation.
As with all of the HK Disciplined Services, British-pattern ranks and insignia continue to be utilised, the only change being the exchange of the St. Edward's Crown for the Bauhinia Flower crest post-1997.
- Commissioner (similar insignia to a UK General)
- Deputy Commissioner (similar insignia to a UK Lieutenant-General)
- Assistant Commissioner (similar insignia to a UK Major-General)
- Chief Superintendent (similar insignia to a UK Colonel)
- Senior Superintendent (similar insignia to a UK Lieutenant-Colonel)
- Superintendent (similar insignia to a UK Major)
- Assistant Superintendent (similar insignia to a UK Captain)
- Senior Inspector (similar insignia to a UK Lieutenant with a bar beneath)
- Inspector (similar insignia to a UK Lieutenant)
- Probationary Inspector (similar insignia to a UK Second Lieutenant)
- Chief Customs Officer (Wreathed fouled anchor)
- Senior Customs Officer (Three chevrons)
- Customs Officer (ID number)
The current crest of the force was adopted in 1997 to replace most of the colonial symbols:
- St Edward's Crown replace with Bauhinia
- Laurel wreath is added to replace the colonial Brunswick star
- Motto changed from "Customs Hong Kong to Hong Kong Customs and Excise 香港海關
- Badge theme added with key and sword to replace the words "香港海關"
While most members of the HK CED are not armed, enforcement officers are provided hand guns as side arms for protection on the field. Graduating members passing out parade with Colt AR-15 rifles.
- Government of Hong Kong
- Hong Kong Police Force
- Marine Region
- Biological material
- Border patrol
- Border control
- Hong Kong Customs and Excise (official website) (English) (Chinese)
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