Hong Kong News Round-Up
Fake Bomb Causes Top Mall To Evacuate
Police are investigating a bomb scare that forced the evacuation of hundreds of people at one of Hong Kong’s most popular shopping malls.
The device planted outside a restaurant at the Star Ferry entrance of Harbour City in Tsim Sha Tsui turned out to be fake, but police said they were treating the case seriously and would not rule out links to terrorism.
A police source said investigators were looking for a woman captured on camera dropping an object where the suspicious device was found by a security guard in the outdoor area of an American diner at 2.10pm.
It was just a stone’s throw away from the waterfront between the mall and the ferry pier – a popular spot for tourists to soak in the scenery of Victoria Harbour.
The area was cordoned off, along with the entrance of the cruise terminal, where a luxury liner was berthed at the time.
Around 600 people were evacuated from the area, while fire fighters and police bomb disposal officers were called in.
“We actually did not know what happened until we heard a loud bang – that was actually the noise from the police robot,” said Macy Zhu, a tourist from Guangdong province.
Tsim Sha Tsui police divisional commander Yolanda Yu Hoi-kwan said investigators were looking into the case from all aspects, including links to terrorism.
“I wish to remind the public that a bomb threat is a very serious offence which carries a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment and a HK$150,000 fine,” she said, adding that no warnings or threats were received in this case.
Hong Kong Anti-Money Laundering Moves
Recent proposals put forward by the Hong Kong government indicate the city’s determination to catch up with rival jurisdictions, and make money laundering harder to carry out. Keen to satisfy the Financial Action Task Force evaluation early next year, and remove any perception that Hong Kong is a hub for illicit money, the government proposes legislation to increase due diligence requirements for corporate service providers and trust companies.
This is timely: according to the Joint Financial Intelligence Unit, 59,730 reports of suspicious financial activity were reported in the first nine months last year, an average of 200 per day – the most the unit received in a single year since it was set up in 1989.
However, the number of people convicted of money laundering fell from 145 in 2014 to 122 last year.
Earlier this year, the government put out a consultation paper that sought to increase customer due diligence and record-keeping requirements for certain non-financial businesses and professions. A “fit and proper” test and new licensing requirements were also suggested, to be overseen by the Registrar of Companies. As a result, measures have been proposed that would require all trust and corporate service providers in the city to be licensed, with stricter anti-money laundering guidelines put in place. Service providers will require a licence – it will be a criminal offence to operate without one – and companies will need to conduct more effective due diligence. This will put Hong Kong more in line with similar jurisdictions and is a positive move that will improve its credibility.
However, legislation alone will not eradicate money laundering, as criminals and disreputable banks and service providers will surely find a way around it. The answer, though, is not more regulation, but proactive action taken by the financial services firms themselves.
Hong Kong Stocks Rising
Hong Kong and Shanghai stocks opened higher Wednesday as traders returned from public holidays to news that Chinese manufacturing activity beat expectations in May.
The benchmark Hang Seng added 0.15 per cent, or 39.25 points, to 25,740.88 in the first few minutes.
The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index gained 0.49 per cent, or 15.27 points, to 3,125.33 and the Shenzhen Composite Index, which tracks stocks on China’s second exchange, rose 0.99 per cent, or 17.90 points, to 1,828.01.
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