US embassy cable - 06HONGKONG1468

SECRETARY CHERTOFF'S MEETING WITH HONG KONG CHIEF EXECUTIVE DONALD TSANG

Identifier: 06HONGKONG1468
Wikileaks: View 06HONGKONG1468 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Consulate Hong Kong
Created: 2006-04-08 02:52:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: PTER PREL PGOV ECON EWWT HK CH
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
VZCZCXRO6903
OO RUEHCN RUEHGH
DE RUEHHK #1468/01 0980252
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 080252Z APR 06
FM AMCONSUL HONG KONG
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 6002
RHMFISS/DEPT OF HOMELAND SECURITY WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
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
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY 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 001468 
 
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 HONG KONG CHIEF 
EXECUTIVE DONALD TSANG 
 
Classified By: Consul General James B. Cunningham.  Reasons: 1.4 (b,d). 
 
Summary 
------- 
 
1.  (C) On March 31, U.S. Department of Homeland Security 
Secretary Michael Chertoff met with Hong Kong Chief Executive 
 
SIPDIS 
(CE) Donald Tsang.  They discussed how to improve port 
security without impeding the flow of commerce.  Tsang 
assessed both Hong Kong and mainland China's preparedness 
against an Avian Influenza (AI) outbreak: Hong Kong was 
well-prepared, and while China faced significant problems due 
to its size and relative poverty, the Chinese Government was 
aware of the need for prompt reporting of outbreaks.  Hong 
Kong would close its border with the PRC if necessary, 
although the CE doubted whether such measures would work 
against a virus transmitted by migratory birds.  Tsang 
assured Secretary  Chertoff that Hong Kong was vigilant 
against terrorism, including possible Al Qaeda operations, 
and promised to cooperate in any way possible with the United 
States.  The Secretary thanked the CE for Hong Kong's 
existing and effective law enforcement cooperation.  End 
summary. 
 
Hong Kong: A vigilant, internationally responsible, city 
--------------------------------------------- ---------- 
 
2.  (C) On March 31, Homeland Security Secetary Michael 
Chertoff met with Hong Kong's Chie Executive (CE), Donald 
Tsang.  Tsang was accompned by his chief of staff, John 
 
SIPDIS 
Tsang (no relaton).  The CE stated that Hong Kong was safer 
 
SIPDIS 
tha most other ports; the Hong Kong Government (HKG) hd 
never been complacent.  His main cncern at this time was 
about Avian Influenza (AI), as well as terrorism.  Hong Kong 
believes in the importance of its international links; there 
is a large international community resident here, from the 
U.S., Japan, and elsewhere; the only way for Hong Kong to 
progress is as an international city.  The HKG is always 
vigilant, and continues to work on counter terrorism, 
anti-money laundering, and other activities such as the 
Container Security Initiative (CSI).  In Tsang's opinion, 
they were getting pretty good results.  Hong Kong would 
support any initiative that did not undermine its belief in 
free trade or its fundamental economic interests. 
 
US seeks improved port security 
------------------------------- 
 
3. (C) Secretary Chertoff explained that he was visiting Asia 
to ensure that the United States was a good partner.  We want 
greater security, and we share fundamental economic 
interests.  We are concerned with air and maritime cargo, and 
with port security.  We are very mindful that we cannot 
achieve security at the expense of the economy.  Commerce 
must move smoothly. At the same time, if one container held a 
bomb that went off, that would be tremendously destabilizing. 
 Our goal is partly educational: we want to raise the level 
of security and also raise the perception of the level of 
security.  There are three elements to the U.S. program. 
First, we encourage the private sector to collect information 
on the cargoes themselves. (One hundred percent physical 
inspection is incompatible with the needs of the economy, so 
we need to explain to the public that we are better off with 
a screening process.)  We use the results of the screening to 
target specific containers for inspection.  Second, we use 
technology for non-intrusive monitoring, via radiation 
detectors and x-ray scanning.  Third, we are improving our 
background checks of personnel in the ports, as well ship 
crews and others involved in the supply chain.  Loading ports 
that have improved security may be eligible for expedited 
treatment; ports with poor security will see their goods pile 
up at our ports, waiting for inspection.  We are very 
concerned that what we do not slow up movement, but at the 
same time we do want to actually see what's coming in.  We 
were looking at port operations all over the world, in order 
to raise the level of security in an intelligent way. 
 
4.  (C) The CE said that at Hong Kong's airport they check 
100 percent of all baggage and cargo, using cameras and other 
equipment.  It ought to be possible to do the same with 
 
HONG KONG 00001468  002 OF 003 
 
 
containers; the system at the airport does move suspicious 
items into the "red channel."  Of course, the shipping 
containers are much larger.  There is also the issue of 
containers that are trans-shipped through Hong Kong, for 
example from mainland ports.  It would be useful for Hong 
Kong to know what technology to choose.  Hong Kong wanted to 
help to the extent that its limited resources permitted.  The 
fundamental issue would be to keep trade moving.  Hong Kong 
was looking at its own practices to see how security could be 
improved.  Tsang observed that, while Hong Kong faced 
challenges, the challenges were universal. 
 
Avian Influenza 
--------------- 
 
5.  (C) Secretary Chertoff turned to the subject of avian 
influenza (AI).  Fortunately, there has not yet been any 
efficient human-to-human transmission.  However, our ability 
to resist calls to shut everything down if there is efficient 
transmission will depend very much on the speed with which we 
get information.  He asked the CE for his assessment of AI 
awareness in Hong Kong and mainland China. 
 
6.  (C) CE Tsang responded that Hong Kong took AI very 
seriously, after its experience with SARS.  In some respects, 
the community has never fully recovered from the SARS 
experience, including its impact on health care 
professionals.  AI is at the top of the Government's current 
priorities.  Tsang assessed Hong Kong's preparedness as very 
sophisticated.  They had determined how to deal with 
high-risk areas, and had established a network among 
hospitals, laboratories, the private sector and the 
Government to deal with an outbreak.  Hong Kong had the best 
labs in Asia and was advanced in work on development of a 
vaccine.  As for China's preparedness, this was an important 
task for them as well.  Hong Kong dealt with both the central 
government in Beijing, and the authorities across the border 
in Guangdong.  There is an efficient notification system, but 
China is huge and poor and there is accordingly the danger 
that not everything would be properly identified or promptly 
reported. 
 
7.  (C) Hong Kong's experience, from SARS, is that sealing 
the border would probably be ineffective.  The virus, which 
is carried by migratory birds, could be rapidly mutating on 
both sides of the border.  The CE confided that they did have 
the means to close the border, and could do it within a 
matter of hours.  Nevertheless, it would be a very serious 
thing to do, and would only be done as a last resort.  Tsang 
personally thought that the virus would probably already be 
on the loose by the time they shut down the border. 
 
8. (C) Secretary Chertoff observed that there was a tendency 
to want to control information.  Jurisdictions want to avoid 
being sealed off and therefore underreport.  The CE replied 
that there was a requirement in China to send information to 
the national authorities.  There was also good coordination 
at the regional level.  But because this disease was spread 
by migratory birds, it is much harder to control.  Hong Kong 
would be sure to be well-prepared, with stockpiles of the 
proper drugs.  Shutting off Hong Kong was the last thing that 
he wanted to do, since everything was imported.  Secretary 
Chertoff observed that the U.S. also had concerns about the 
impact of a quarantine -- if everyone is quarantined and no 
one goes to work, we face similar dangers. 
 
9.  (C) The CE said that when he had met with President Bush 
in Korea last fall at the APEC Leaders meeting, he told the 
President that Hong Kong was spending billions on stockpiles 
of tamiflu.  Secretary Chertoff noted that part of the 
challenge of a workable vaccine was the problem of producing 
sufficient quantities, and also of deciding who needed to 
vaccinated first.  The CE explained that Hong Kong would have 
to rely on other countries to produce the vaccine, but 
promised that Hong Kong would do its part, including 
quarantining itself if an efficient human-to-human virus 
transmission was taking place here. 
 
Al Qaeda 
-------- 
 
HONG KONG 00001468  003 OF 003 
 
 
 
10. (C) Secretary Chertoff asked CE Tsang whether he saw Al 
Qaeda as a threat to Hong Kong.  Tsang replied that they were 
aware of the potential and were monitoring dangerous 
elements.  Most of the Muslim community in Hong Kong was from 
South Asia and had been here for a long time, and was 
moderate.  Last month elements of the community demonstrated 
over the Danish cartoon issue; that was the first time that 
Hong Kong had seen any manifestations of Islamic militancy. 
In fact, the demonstration was very mild and restrained.  But 
since Hong Kong is adjacent to a number of dangerous areas 
such as Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines, they 
maintain their vigilance.  The CE said that Hong Kong engaged 
in intelligence sharing on this subject with Singapore, and 
asserted that Hong Kong would leave no stone unturned in the 
fight against terrorism, and would assist the U.S. in any way 
it could.  Secretary Chertoff said that he was aware that the 
U.S. and Hong Kong enjoyed a very strong, cooperative law 
enforcement relationship, and thanked the CE for the help we 
have already received from Hong Kong. 
 
11. (U) Secretary Chertoff's party has cleared this cable. 
 
Cunningham 

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