26. Speech by Commissioner of Customs and Excise at 2009 International Customs Day
The Honourable Financial Secretary, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
Each year, the Wor1d Customs Organisation dedicates International Customs Day to a special theme to promote international Customs co-operation to tackle an issue of common concern. This year, the theme is "Customs and the Environment: Protecting our Natural Heritage".
I think this is a very meaningful theme, that not only reflects the growing concern of the international community about protecting our environment and our natural heritage, but that also helps to highlight the increasingly diverse roles and responsibilities of customs officers today. Traditionally, the main role of Customs is the col1ection of import and excise duties and the prevention of smuggling and trafficking in drugs. Since the 911 events, Customs administrations around the world have assumed an increasing role in the fight against terrorism. At the same time, the fact that Customs is often seen by bona fide traders as a stumbling block to doing business means that we have to play a key role in promoting economic growth through trade facilitation.
In Hong Kong, the versatility and resourcefulness of Customs officers are taken to such extremes that we are not only responsible for performing our traditional duties as tax collector and smuggling and drug buster, but we are also responsible for enforcement of intellectual property rights, consumer products safety and acting as a tourist policeman to protect our Mainland tourists and local consumers alike from being ripped off by unscrupulous traders.
The earth is the most valuable common asset that we have as human beings. We owe our future generations a duty to protect the environment and our natural heritage. Globalisation of trade and convenience of travel means customs officers have to play a key role in stopping the smuggling of endangered fauna and flora and the illegal trade in "environmentally sensitive" commodities such as ozone depleting substances, hazardous and other waste, and chemical weapons.
It is the collective responsibility of the world community to protect the environment and our natural heritage. Hong Kong Customs will continue to play its part and our success in doing so would not have been possible without the help and co-operation given to us by our local and international counterparts, other government departments and the business community, many of which are represented here this evening. On behalf of Hong Kong Customs, I would like to thank you again and look forward to your continued support and assistance in future.
Thank you very much.