Is Hong Kong safe?

Question: What about safety? I've heard that Hong Kong has a low crime rate. Is it really that safe?

Mr Tall replies: Hong Kong really is very safe. I've seen Hong Kong described as one of the world's three safest cities, as having one of the lowest crime rates on earth, etc. It's hard to compare crime rates across cultures, but there's no doubt Hong Kong is far safer than European and North American cities. If you're interested, there's an short, informative paper on this topic here. According to the Hong Kong Government, the crime rate has actually been dropping steadily here for years. In particular, violent crime rates are very low. Muggings, for example, are rare.

From a purely personal point of view, Hong Kong just 'feels safe' to me. There's almost no sense of menace out on the streets. The biggest dangers seem to be from pickpockets, and (for women) getting groped on the MTR.

A reader asks: One thing that struck me as strange when I was in Hong Kong was the very high number of police and private security guards. Are the Hong Kong police a part of the Chinese police? How are foreigners treated compared to Chinese? Does "Gwai privilege" also extend to the police? On the Internet there are numerous horror stories about the Chinese police, but not anything about the Hong Kong police.

A reader replies: The Police are a branch of the HK government, separate from the "Gong An" of the PRC. The HK police are pretty good insofar as they are not particularly brutal or corrupt -- I would say that they compare favorably to the police in Chicago or Boston in the USA, but that may not be considered shining praise. As a European-American woman who can speak some basic Cantonese, I have found the police that I have encountered to be polite and efficient. But, the only time I have ever really interacted was once when I accompanied a friend to report a stolen pocketbook, and a couple of times in routine roadblocks (they entered the bus and asked to see everone's I.D.) and some bar raids (same thing . . .).

Mr Tall adds: It's true Hong Kong has a high number of police, and you do see lots of security guards. Most residential buildings have a 'watchman' stationed at the door, although many of them are more concerned with watching horse racing than they are in looking out for suspicious activities! Nevertheless, the chances that your flat will be burgled -- assuming you live in a guarded development, and not in a village house -- are very low indeed.

I think westerners are likely to be treated at least as well as local people by the police. Conversely, I've heard stories of other Asian people -- e.g. Filipinos and Indonesians -- being treated more harshly, but I emphasize this is pure anecdote. Overall, I think the police here do an excellent job.


I very much agree. Under the

I very much agree. Under the Joint-Sino Declaration, Hong Kong has an independent government with all matter's except national defense, guaranteed until 2047. It runs its own police force, one that is quite stable. Do not be intimidated if you are asked to show ID, it is merely routine. Beware, however, if you are a tourist and do not have your passport (HK law requires people to either have their HKID or Passport, at all times), I do not think the police are so "cooperative".

Should tourists carry their passports around?

I think you're better off leaving it in your hotel-room safe. If it is lost/stolen on the street it's a lot of hassle to get an emergency replacement.

As Charlie says, the HK Police do have the right ask anyone to show their ID. But as their website says:

If any person fails to produce his proof of identity for inspection on demand, he should give a reasonable explanation and evidence to prove his identify to any police officer in a reasonable time and circumstance. Depending on the circumstances and attitude of the person being checked, a police officer may issue a verbal warning, bring the person back to the police station for further enquiry, take summons action or even arrest the person concerned.

So I don't think you're going to be thrown into jail for not carrying your passport. As a tourist, the chances of being asked to show ID are almost zero. (I've been asked to show ID once in the 15+ years I've lived here, and that was when I was traveling on a bus in some remote part of the New Territories).

As a compromise, you could carry a photocopy of the passport with you. Inany case it's a good idea to have a photocopy kept separate from the passport. I had my passport stolen once, and having a photocopy made it much easier to get a replacement.


Driving License

If the driving license bears the picture of the holder, it may be useful, though not legitimate as a proof of ID. 

In the good old days, only British Subjects could be enrolled as police officer, and those could speak English had red backing on their shoulder tag.

Well a friend of mine went to

Well a friend of mine went to hong kong last month to visit and now she is missing! Not sure what happen or where she can be.

This is already in local news on Christmas Day

Hi there,

Just FYI this is already in local news on Christmas Day.  Coverage was not much, I have to amit.  There is a photo and her description.

We can only hope for the best, I'm afraid.

Best Regards,