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Homeland Security

22 April 2004

FBI Director Looks Forward to Building Strong Ties with Beijing

Mueller outlines cooperative efforts in law enforcement

Robert Mueller, director of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), says he looks forward to good cooperation between Beijing and the United States in the area of law enforcement.

At an April 22 press conference at the U.S. Consulate General in Hong Kong, Mueller -- who had just completed a visit in Beijing to permanently open the FBI's legal attaché office there -- said his agency has had an informal relationship with Beijing for the last two years. In that time, he said, his agency has had "very substantial informal ties and cooperation."

"We have wanted to build on that cooperation," Mueller said, "and also build the relationships of trust that are so essential to the swift exchange of intelligence. Intelligence to address the terrorism threat, intelligence to address cyber crime, organized crime. It is the intelligence that prevents attacks and crimes in the future."

The director also praised the expertise of the Hong Kong police department and said: "I cannot think of another country or area in the world in which we have a better relationship than the one we've had over the years with the Hong Kong police department." The FBI has had a legal attaché office in Hong Kong for almost 40 years.

Mueller emphasized the need for law enforcement around the world to work together to prevent international crime.

Following is a transcript of Mueller's April 22 press conference:

(begin transcript)

Press Conference by Robert S. Mueller, III
Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation
U.S. Consulate General, Hong Kong
April 22, 2004

DIRECTOR MUELLER: Good morning, everyone. It is indeed an honor and a pleasure to visit Hong Kong. It is my first trip to Hong Kong. It's really such a beautiful city. I also spent a couple of days in Beijing, which is the first trip that I've made to Beijing. Actually, it is the first time a director of the FBI has been to Beijing.

The purpose of these visits is to -- in one case, Beijing, is to open up permanently our legal attaché office there. We've had one there for two years. We wish to make that office permanent and that was part of the rationale for being in Beijing. Here it is to thank the Hong Kong police and our counterparts in the security arena for the cooperation we've had for any number of years.

There probably is not an individual law enforcement agency who in the wake of September 11th does not understand that in order to be successful in the future, we will have to work together. There is no one agency, there is no one police department that can address terrorism -- and indeed some of the other threats we face -- alone. Threats such as organized crime, cyber crime, trafficking in persons, narcotics trafficking. Increasingly, the globe grows smaller as a result of wire transfers, jet travel, the Internet. And increasingly, in order for us to be successful against these threats, we have to work together.

It was important to establish the relationship with Beijing. It's a relationship that we hope to develop as we've developed the relationship in Hong Kong over the last 40 years. We've had a legal attaché office in Hong Kong for almost 40 years, which represents the close association that the FBI has had with the Hong Kong police over that span of time.

Those in Hong Kong are indeed lucky to have a police department of the caliber of the Hong Kong police. Over the years that we have been working cooperatively with the police here, we have had cases in which there have been violations of Hong Kong law and persons have fled to the United States, only to be returned from the United States to Hong Kong to face justice. We have had individuals who have committed crimes in the United States who have fled to Hong Kong, only to have Hong Kong return those individuals to the United States for justice.

I cannot think of another country or area in the world in which we have a better relationship than the one we've had over the years with the Hong Kong police department. I want to particularly thank them for that relationship, for their expertise, and for the cooperation we've had over the years, most recently in the past couple of years since I have been Director.

And with that, I'd be happy to answer any questions that you might have.

Q: I was wondering about the FBI agent who was arrested here with bullets about a month or two ago. Was he disciplined internally after he went back...?

DIRECTOR MUELLER: I think we are still looking at that. I do recall that case. It was inadvertent. The person had a bullet on him, and I believe we're still looking at that case. Anybody else? It's going to be a short press conference....

Q: You are the first FBI Director to visit Beijing. What is the significance of your visit? And what are the improvements you think China can do to (elevate) the cooperation between the U.S. and China so that China can have the same level of cooperation as Hong Kong does with the U.S.?

DIRECTOR MUELLER: We've had legal agreements with Hong Kong -- for example, extradition treaties, the Mutual Legal Assistance Agreement -- which have established a basis for the sharing of information on the legal terms in the past.

We have not had that kind of legal relationship with Beijing, but we've had very substantial informal ties and cooperation. We returned a defendant in the Kai Ping Bank matter to Beijing last week, which is indicative of the type of cooperation we've seen with Beijing. We've had a number of individuals who have committed crimes in the United States and who have fled to China. They have either been returned to the United States or, when they are Chinese citizens, prosecuted in China for those crimes, even though the crimes occurred in the United States. Mr. Yu, the individual who was involved in the Kai Ping Bank matter, committed his crime in China and fled to the United States, only to be returned to China to serve his time.

So we've had the informal cooperation over a number of years. We have wanted to build on that cooperation and also build the relationships of trust that are so essential to the swift exchange of intelligence. Intelligence to address the terrorism threat, intelligence to address cyber crime, organized crime. It is the intelligence that prevents attacks and crimes in the future. And it was to develop that personal relationship that is so important which prompted my visit to Beijing.

Q: In the area of human smuggling, have you made any progress in talks? And have you discussed this with your Hong Kong counterparts as well?

DIRECTOR MUELLER: As you know, we had the Sister Ping case where she was extradited back to the United States, I think it was last year. She was responsible for a number of occurrences of human smuggling into the United States, including the ship that ran aground off the shores of New York in which ten persons lost their lives. She had used a gang in New York for her muscle and furtherance of her enterprise, and she fled to Hong Kong, could not escape justice, and was returned to the United States last year. That was a substantial success in addressing human trafficking.

It is still a substantial concern. We have had discussions over -- not just in my visit, but between our legal attaché office and the Hong Kong police in addressing that particular scourge.

Q: Two questions. One, you mentioned this morning in an earlier speech about the training of Hong Kong police in the U.S. by the FBI. Is that starting with Chinese officers as well? And the second question is regarding Hong Kong and the Container Security Initiative. I wondered if you could comment about the success of that and whether it's been receptive?

DIRECTOR MUELLER: We've had 60 police officers, as I indicated earlier -- Hong Kong police officers -- who have gone through our National Academy in Quantico, Virginia. We have offered an invitation to NPS officers to go through the National Academy also, and my hope is that they will be sending their officers through the National Academy. We have a thousand police officers that go through the National Academy each year in classes of 250 each. Most of the individuals are from state and local law enforcement in the United States, but a substantial and increasing component are officers from a variety of police departments around the world. It is that training together that will establish the basis for our future cooperative relationships.

Now the second part of your question was, again... I've forgotten, if you'll remind me?

Q: Container security.

DIRECTOR MUELLER: That's Rob Bonner of the Customs Service, who came out here. Together, we are -- by "we" I mean the United States and Hong Kong -- are scrutinizing containers before they leave Hong Kong on their way to the United States. All you have to do is drive past the container port here to see the huge percentage of container traffic that goes through Hong Kong to understand the enormity of the task. But having our persons working here with Hong Kong Customs will minimize the possibility of someone -- a terrorist or otherwise -- utilizing containers to ship items into the United States.

I was struck by the fact that one out of ten containers that go to the United States come out of Hong Kong, which is testimony to the role that Hong Kong plays in the world economy. But as it does play such a substantial role in the world economy, so too do we have to work together to protect the economy from those who would do us harm, whether it be terrorists or traffickers of persons or narcotics traffickers.

Q: Do you foresee a formal extradition agreement with China in the near future? In particular, would you see one that would cover, for example, tax and other financial crimes of the sort the Chinese complain that people grab the money and run to the States and then they can't get them back?

DIRECTOR MUELLER: They may have complained that they grab the money and run to the States, but Mr. Yu is an example of, regardless of an extradition treaty, you are not going to escape to the United States. You will be seeing China again.

We would hope to continue discussions about an extradition treaty. As you pointed out, it doesn't make any difference whether it is China or some other country with which we are seeking such an agreement. The sticking points often are tax matters and the like. We would hope to have a broader range of crimes covered by the treaty, rather than a narrower range of crimes.

One of the issues that is tremendously important to us quite obviously is money laundering. Because Hong Kong is such a center of commerce in Asia, it is tremendously important that we together address money laundering. Hong Kong led for a period of time the Financial Action Task Force that meets periodically in Paris, upgrading the standards to address money laundering, and has been a leader in that capacity. We are working together with Hong Kong and hope to work together with Beijing to eliminate the capabilities in both of these arenas for money laundering.

Q: What is the FBI's assessment of the risk of a terrorist attack in Hong Kong?

DIRECTOR MUELLER: I think we all have to vigilant. You have approximately 50,000 United States citizens here in Hong Kong. You have over 1,000 companies related to the United States. The Hong Kong police force does a very good job in both providing maritime security as well as security in Hong Kong. But it is a financial center. Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups want to make an impact on the economy and often desire to strike at financial centers such as Hong Kong. So in my discussions this morning, we did discuss the necessity for all of us to be vigilant.

And it's not just law enforcement. It's not just the Hong Kong police or the FBI or the Customs or Immigration, but also the persons who live, work and earn a living in Hong Kong who must be vigilant about things that seem out of the ordinary. Hong Kong is one of the principle transit points in the world. Persons come through, monies come through. It's important, being a transit point, a hub in Asia, that persons be alert to the abuse of its systems in furtherance of terrorism, organized crime, or other threats that beset us.

Q: Is Hong Kong high risk or low risk?

DIRECTOR MUELLER: Oh, I'm not going to give it a high risk or a low risk. You're not going to get me to answer that question in that way. I think we all have to be vigilant. It depends on the point of time, it depends on who might be out there targeting Hong Kong or New York or Washington or London or Paris or what have you. Those in centers of commerce, those where there are a number of Americans and American companies I think have to be alert to the possibility of terrorist attacks. We all have to be vigilant.

The bombings in Iraq, the bombing today in Riyadh are testimony to the fact that terrorists have spread out throughout the world and are anxious to make a point by indiscriminately killing women and children. What was particularly horrible were the attacks in Basra, where a number of children were killed in the course of those suicide bombings.

Q: Will the FBI set up an office in Beijing? Are there any significant cases that the office is dealing with?

DIRECTOR MUELLER: The most significant case, certainly from the perspective of Beijing, was the Kai Ping case in which we just returned an individual. There are a number of cases we have together in which we're dealing with the NPS and in which we're working cooperatively, both here in China as well as in the United States.

Q: You can't talk about whether the threat assessment is high or low, but can you talk a little bit in relative terms as to whether you feel that you've made progress? Whether the law enforcement institutions in the region and together working with the FBI have made progress in confronting the terrorist threat so that it -- say, over the past couple of years, you feel more confident than you did a couple of years ago?

DIRECTOR MUELLER: Sure, we absolutely feel more confident since September 10, before September 11th . That's attributable to a number of factors. First, we went into Afghanistan and took away the sanctuary of Al Qaeda. They no longer have that sanctuary in which to train, to coordinate, to recruit, to plan, to operate. By removing that sanctuary, we have deprived them of that base of operations.

Now the downside to that is Al Qaeda is fragmented around the world. But still we have dealt a blow to their ability to communicate, their ability to plan, their ability to finance their operations.

Secondly, with the help of counterparts in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, Indonesia and other countries, we have significantly devastated Al Qaeda's leadership. We have detained and taken out of the organization persons such as Abu Zubayda; Al Khalid Sheikh Muhamed, who was the architect of September 11 th ; Al Khalid, the architect of the Cole bombing. All these individuals who were principle organizers of Al Qaeda have now been taken off the field and have been detained. So that makes us safer today.

And lastly, both within the United States and outside the United States, we have continued to develop relationships which provide a basis for the exchange of intelligence and information. Those relationships have been there before but were not as solidly developed as we have developed them since September 11th . In this region, we have had the arrest of Hambali, for instance, that has made a difference to Al Qaeda to operate in this region -- but, by the same token, you've had the Bali bombing, which is an indication of the lethal capabilities of Al Qaeda in the region.

The relationships that we have developed -- not only with Hong Kong but other governments in the area, whether it be Manila, in Thailand, and certainly Australia -- have meant that we in the region I think are all safer as a result of the free exchange of intelligence information that has developed since September 11 th .

Q: We've seen Kim Jong-Il get a warm welcome in Beijing. Can you comment on cooperation with China on policing sales of contraband and possibly dangerous weapons by North Korea to enemies of the United States?

DIRECTOR MUELLER: On the one hand -- I'll talk a little bit about information, the protection of our information processes, the IPR issues, which are of substantial concern to us. In Beijing we did discuss that. They are making inroads. They understand the necessity of reducing the counterfeiting, whether it is software or otherwise.

The issue relating to North Korea is one that is not really on my table, so I did not have much in the way of discussions in that area. Although, to the extent that there is evidence or information relating to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, whether it be law enforcement or the intelligence community, we're always alert to that possibility. The understanding with Beijing, as well as with other countries, is: We do not need, do not want, cannot risk the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and all of their iterations. It was not really a core of the discussions I had with Beijing but in the future will be a topic of discussion, I'm sure.

Thank you very much for allowing me to take the opportunity to make a few remarks and answer some questions. As I said, it's a delight to be in Hong Kong. It's a wonderful city. You're very lucky to be able to spend your time here. Thanks.

(end transcript)

(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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