US embassy cable - 06HONGKONG1467

SECRETARY CHERTOFF'S MEETING WITH SECRETARY FOR SECURITY AMBROSE LEE AND HONG KONG PORT OPERATORS

Identifier: 06HONGKONG1467
Wikileaks: View 06HONGKONG1467 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Consulate Hong Kong
Created: 2006-04-08 02:51:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: PTER PREL PGOV ECON EWWT HK CH
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
VZCZCXRO6899
OO RUEHCN RUEHGH
DE RUEHHK #1467/01 0980251
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 080251Z APR 06
FM AMCONSUL HONG KONG
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 5999
RUEAHLC/HOMELAND SECURITY CENTER WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
INFO RUEHOO/CHINA POSTS COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RHHMUNA/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI PRIORITY
RUEAWJA/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RULSDMK/DEPT OF TRANSPORTATION WASHDC PRIORITY
RUCNFB/FBI WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 HONG KONG 001467 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
STATE FOR EAP/MCGANN, EAP/CM 
NSC FOR WILDER 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/08/2031 
TAGS: PTER, PREL, PGOV, ECON, EWWT, HK, CH 
SUBJECT: SECRETARY CHERTOFF'S MEETING WITH SECRETARY FOR 
SECURITY AMBROSE LEE AND HONG KONG PORT OPERATORS 
 
Classified By: Consul General James B. Cunningham.  Reasons: 1.4 (b,d). 
 
Summary 
------- 
 
1. (C) On March 31, U.S. Department of Homeland Security 
(DHS) Secretary Michael Chertoff met with Hong Kong Secretary 
for Security Ambrose Lee to discuss the global war on terror. 
 On April 1, Chertoff visited Hong Kong's ports and met with 
terminal operators to discuss maritime security.  Secretary 
Chertoff said that the U.S. was exploring solutions that 
balanced the need to improve maritime security with continued 
efficiency of handling and shipping cargo.  Technology and 
better awareness of supply chain management were key issues. 
Public and Congressional pressure demanded increased 
security, including screening for radiological materials. 
Secretary Lee noted that intelligence sharing with the U.S. 
 
SIPDIS 
and other countries enabled Hong Kong authorities to better 
monitor its borders so that the terrorist threat in Hong Kong 
remained low to moderate.  Hong Kong's "smart ID card" 
contained biometric data; Hong Kong would start issuing 
passports with biometric data in the first quarter of 2007. 
Also on April 1, Secretary Chertoff toured Hong Kong's Smart 
ID production facilities at Hong Kong Immigration 
Headquarters.  End summary. 
 
Hong Kong's Terrorism Threat Low to Moderate 
-------------------------------------------- 
 
2. (SBU) On March 31, Secretary Chertoff discussed maritime 
security, the terrorism threat in Hong Kong, and biometric 
travel documents with Secretary for Security Ambrose Lee. 
Commissioner of Customs and Excise Timothy Tong, Director of 
Hong Kong Immigration T.K. Lai, Assistant Commissioner of 
Customs and Excise Chow Kwong, Assistant Director of 
Immigration K.C. Chan, and Security Bureau Principal 
Assistant Secretary Manda Chan accompanied Lee.  Counselor to 
the Secretary Adam Isles, DHS Public Affairs Assistant 
Secretary Brian Besanceney, DHS Asia/Pacific Director Paul 
 
SIPDIS 
Fujimura, DHS/ICE attache Thomas Howe, and econoff 
(notetaker) also attended the meeting. 
 
3. (C) Secretary Lee said that Hong Kong was one of the 
safest places in the world.  The HKG was always vigilant, and 
continued to work constructively with the U.S. on counter 
terrorism, anti-money laundering, and other activities such 
as the Container Security Initiative (CSI).   Several reasons 
existed for Hong Kong's low to moderate terrorist threat. 
First, Hong Kong maintained effective immigration and customs 
standards and practices.  Hong Kong has successfully 
prevented radical groups from entering Hong Kong so no 
terrorist infrastructure existed.  Second, although Hong Kong 
had tens of thousands of second and third generation Muslim 
residents from Bangladesh and Pakistan, the HKG has made 
efforts to liaise with this assimilated community on a 
regular basis and was confident that they were not engaged in 
any terrorist activities.  Finally, the police have had 
excellent intelligence exchanges with overseas counterparts 
that have permitted the HKG to remain aware of the terrorist 
threats.  Hong Kong was not complacent, and the HKG realized 
that dangers existed in several countries throughout the 
region.  Secretary Chertoff warned that the foremost aim of 
terrorists was to strike at international commercial 
interests and that Hong Kong's role as an international 
commercial and financial center would make it a tempting 
target.  Lee agreed, saying that terrorists would attack "the 
weakest link." Hong Kong remained vigilant. 
 
Hong Kong Supports Biometric Data in Travel Documents 
--------------------------------------------- -------- 
 
4. (C) The USG has found that fingerprinting at U.S. borders 
produced positive results, Secretary Chertoff said.  After 
fingerprints were scanned, Customs officials could gain 
access to previous passport pages used upon entry and compare 
them to the present passport.  Lee said that "friends from 
overseas do not need to submit fingerprints," but the Hong 
Kong ID card contained a chip with the bearer's fingerprints. 
 The HKG planned to issue biometric passports starting in the 
first quarter of 2007, shortly before the first passports 
issued after the 1997 reversion would start to expire.  T.K. 
Lai added that the U.S. has provided Hong Kong with an 
 
HONG KONG 00001467  002 OF 003 
 
 
excellent face recognition system, which has enhanced its 
efforts to keep out illegal migrants.  The cooperation 
between Hong Kong and the U.S. enhanced international 
security since many travelers passed through Hong Kong en 
route to an onward destination.  Secretary Chertoff viewed 
Hong Kong's smart ID card production facilities the following 
day. 
 
Maritime Security Must Balance Speed and Security 
--------------------------------------------- ---- 
 
5. (C) Secretary Chertoff said that maritime security was the 
main issue on his agenda during his Hong Kong visit.  He 
noted that the next day he would look at the Integrated Cargo 
Inspection System (ICIS) at Hong Kong's port, which was a 
combination of radiation monitors and x-ray scanning of 
containers.  The USG was considering whether radiological 
monitoring at foreign ports should be required to facilitate 
cargo entry into the U.S.  Customs Commissioner Tong replied 
that the terminal operators were conducting a pilot project 
with ICIS, which like the Department of Energy's Megaports 
initiative, involved radiological monitors.  Tong praised the 
efficacy of the Container Security Initiative (CSI).  He 
expressed concern that under the ICIS model, even if only two 
percent of the cargo passing through radiological monitors 
triggered an alarm, Hong Kong Customs would have to open and 
inspect 180 containers a day, which was not feasible.  He 
also said that Hong Kong's port operators did not separate 
for screening purposes U.S.-bound cargo from cargo bound for 
other destinations.  Tong suggested that radiological 
screening in U.S. ports would therefore be a better solution 
than screening in Hong Kong or other exporting ports. 
 
6. (C) According to Secretary Chertoff, the USG did not want 
to disrupt port throughput, but Congressional and public 
pressure calling for a more absolute approach to port 
security could not be underestimated.  A more rigorous 
screening/inspection regime would replace the existing one. 
The U.S. wanted to use technology to get a better level of 
information.  The U.S. would also strive to convince 
governments and port operators of the need for radiological 
portals.  The U.S. would likely move to a regime where 
loading ports that have such equipment would obtain some 
level of expedited  "green lane-like" clearance through U.S. 
Customs.   Overseas ports would seek to install such 
equipment to maintain the competitiveness of their ports. 
 
7. (C) Next-generation monitors already existed that could 
specify the exact isotope in a scanned container, the 
Secretary continued.  Customs authorities would therefore be 
 
SIPDIS 
able to resolve most radiological alarms by looking at the 
container's shipping manifest to see if the isotope was 
consistent with what was being shipped.  Only in the few 
cases where a discrepancy existed would Customs need to 
physically inspect the cargo.  He noted that he met with 
Hutchison Port Holdings Chairman Li Ka-shing earlier in the 
day.  Li was an advocate of radiological monitoring and said 
that the radiological portals would be feasible for Hong 
Kong.  The Secretary added that some in Congress were 
advocating that U.S. Customs physically inspect 100 percent 
of the containers entering the U.S., which would have a much 
more significant impact on container throughput.  Secretary 
Lee replied that Hong Kong would carefully consider the 
various security initiatives and weigh their benefits with 
the impact on throughput.  Tong added that the U.S. and Hong 
Kong could coordinate efforts in the International Customs 
Organization's exercise to draw up a framework of standards, 
which would result in improved trade facilitation. 
 
Secretary Chertoff Visits Hong Kong's Port 
 
SIPDIS 
------------------------------------------ 
 
8. (C) On April 1, Secretary Chertoff viewed the ICIS pilot 
project at Modern Terminals and the Hutchison Port Holdings 
(HPH)-operated Hong Kong International Terminal (HIT).  At 
both terminals, operators demonstrated the x-ray and 
radiology screening of containers moving through entry lanes 
at 17 km/hour.  They expressed confidence that 100 percent 
screening of containers passing through their terminals is 
feasible.  The Secretary was concerned about how 
transshipments could be screened at Hong Kong's port since 
some of the containers might be transferred between boats. 
 
HONG KONG 00001467  003 OF 003 
 
 
Modern Terminals Managing Director Sean Kelly said that most 
U.S.-bound cargo transited Kwai Chung port, and few 
containers actually moved ship to ship without being on land. 
 
 
9. (C) Kelly noted that terminal handlers could not review 
all the ICIS output, but would need government authorities to 
do so.  Terminal operators could collect the information, but 
customs authorities would need to assess what to do with it. 
The data could, for example, be sent directly to the U.S. for 
real-time review.  Protocols on use and levels of inspections 
would need to be developed.    Terminal operators had a 
shared interest with governments in promoting the security of 
shipping.    Addressing Hong Kong Custom's concerns, he said 
that the presence of ICIS equipment did not mean that 
inspections of cargo would increase.  ICIS, however, provided 
additional information so that physical examination of 
containers could be better targeted. 
 
10. (C) HPH Group Managing Director John Meredith explained 
that Hutchison wanted to work cooperatively with the U.S. 
Government to enhance port security.  The views of the U.S. 
on taking security to the next level will have decisive 
impact.  In addition to making the case for the ICIS model, 
Meredith added that Hutchison was also discussing port 
security with the EU, noting that the EU established a 
subgroup to study how to strengthen port security and 
formulate proposals for the World Customs Organization (WCO). 
 He noted that some European ports had already installed 
radiological portals.  The Secretary said that the U.S. would 
likely endorse a performance standard for screening for 
radiological materials, but would not mandate a proprietary 
system. 
 
11. (U) Secretary Chertoff's party has cleared this cable. 
Cunningham 

Latest source of this page is cablebrowser-2, released 2011-10-04