2,000 new CCTV cameras ‘not enough,’ says Hong Kong police chief, does not rule out face detection function

The 2,000 new security cameras to be installed in Hong Kong by the end of 2024 for improving public safety may be equipped with face recognition functions, the city’s police chief has said.

Hong Kong will see 615 new CCTV cameras set up at “black spots” next month as part of police efforts to enhance surveillance for crime detection and prevention, Commissioner of Police Raymond Siu said in an interview.

The Force would check the first batch of cameras installed to see if any fine-tuning was needed, before setting up the rest of the 2,000 devices in crowded areas and other crime hotspots, Siu said. He added that many places around the world also had security cameras, including the UK and Singapore, where he said the number of CCTV cameras stood at 7.3 million and 90,000 respectively. Installing 2,000 CCTV cameras in Hong Kong was “really relatively not enough,” Siu said. “We believe that there will be more than 2,000 [CCTV cameras] in the future,” Siu said in Cantonese.

It is not known how many surveillance cameras are already installed in public places in Hong Kong, where government departments including the police, Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) and the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department have CCTV cameras set up. The Security Bureau told HKFP last month that the government did not maintain the number of CCTV cameras in the city.

Asked whether the surveillance cameras would have facial recognition functions, Siu said he would not rule out such a possibility. The Force has yet to decide on the retention period of the footage recorded and would make reference to other countries and regions, the police commissioner said.

Siu also rejected privacy concerns, saying the devices would only monitor public areas. The police would handle the cameras in accordance with the law and consult with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data to ensure people’s privacy would not be infringed, he said.

The new security cameras would be “independent,” the police chief added, as the Force had no plans to use existing security cameras managed by other government departments.
Asked if the security cameras would be used for national security purposes, Siu said the devices would help tackle all illegal matters. Although Hong Kong’s traditional crime figures dropped to a “particularly low level” last year, the installation of new CCTV cameras was still needed, he said.

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