Case study : crime trends in Hong Kong

Broadhurst, Roderic G., Lee, King-Wa, & Chan, Ching-Yee (2007) Case study : crime trends in Hong Kong. In Enhancing Urban Safety and Security — Global Report on Human Settlements 2007. Earthscan/United Nations Human Settlements Programme, London.

View at publisher


Hong Kong has become one of the world’s safest metropolises. The low official crime and victimization rates – confirmed by both government and UN crime victim surveys is ample evidence. Hong Kong’s anti-crime efforts and support of law enforcement is reflected in the relatively high incarceration rate (176.8 in 2005 per 100,000) and a large police service (486.6 police per 100,000 in 2000) An average of 10% of public expenditure is devoted to security. The role of government and other factors in contributing to a relatively safe environment merits discussion about what can be learnt from the HK experience.

Cultural factors such as utilitarian familism, Confucianism and extended kinship structures are often cited as contributing factors to the low crime rates in HK. HK citizens are conformist and public attitudes favor a government that is hostile to crime and is generally supportive of severe punishment to adult offenders. Although the death penalty was abolished in 1992 HK had been a defacto abolitionist jurisdiction since the 1960’s. Nevertheless many offences, such as firearm-related offences, often result in lengthy sentences when compared to sentences given in Western countries for like offences.

HK has not always been safe and suffered several civil disturbances during the 1950s and 1960s and crime rates for homicide and robbery were not particularly low compared to other countries in the same period. Indeed, HK crime rates continued to rise throughout the 1960s and 1970s as the colony underwent rapid modernization and the proportion of the youthful population surged. Positive attitudes to the reporting of crime has been associated with, the demise of the symbiosis between organized crime [triads] and elements of the police following special anti-corruption measures, also contributed to increases in the reported crime rate during this period. Crime rates, however, reached a plateau during the 1980s and thereafter have generally declined.

The labour and ‘Cultural Revolution’ inspired disturbances of the 1950s and 1960s initiated social-welfare responses from the British colonial government, which hitherto had long upheld a ‘minimal state doctrine’ and unfettered ‘free trade’. The 1970s marked the start of genuine localization and transformation of the Hong Kong Police (HKP) from an alien force that served British colonial hegemony to one that served the HK community. After the transfer of sovereignty to the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in 1997 the HKP operated in the context of the ‘one country two systems’ arrangements for the new HK Special Administrative Region of the PRC.

In summary, the reasons for HK’s low crime rate are a complicated mixture of factors that include a wealthy complaint pro-social population, ethnic homogeneity, active anti-corruption strategies, Confucianism based family-oriented values, a large professional police force, strict gun laws, effective suppression of cross-border crime, high levels of formal or informal surveillance, and severe punishment of the convicted.

Impact and interest:

Citation counts are sourced monthly from Scopus and Web of Science® citation databases.

These databases contain citations from different subsets of available publications and different time periods and thus the citation count from each is usually different. Some works are not in either database and no count is displayed. Scopus includes citations from articles published in 1996 onwards, and Web of Science® generally from 1980 onwards.

Citations counts from the Google Scholar™ indexing service can be viewed at the linked Google Scholar™ search.

ID Code: 8269
Item Type: Book Chapter
Additional Information: For more information about this book please refer to the publisher's website (see link) or contact the author . Author contact details:
Additional URLs:
Keywords: crime, public safety, urban planning, China, crime trends
ISBN: 9781844074754
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY (160000) > CRIMINOLOGY (160200) > Criminology not elsewhere classified (160299)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Law
Copyright Owner: Copyright © United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), 2007
Deposited On: 26 Jun 2007 00:00
Last Modified: 08 Jun 2010 15:50

Export: EndNote | Dublin Core | BibTeX

Repository Staff Only: item control page