Shirley Hu, a Hong Kong Customs inspector, embarks on a remarkable journey spanning from neuroscience to customs enforcement

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Shirley Hu

27th May 2024 – (Hong Kong) Shirley Hu, a former neuroscience researcher, has become a leading figure in Hong Kong’s fight against smuggling. Appointed as a customs inspector, Hu has leveraged her scientific training to crack down on sophisticated cross-border smuggling operations, including a notable case involving goods worth over HK$100 million.

Before joining the customs service, Hu worked at the neuroscience research division of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Hong Kong. Her work was primarily focused on repetitive lab experiments and academic papers. However, she found her calling in law enforcement, where she could apply the scientific method—hypothesising boldly and verifying cautiously—to real-world challenges.

Hu’s transition from the lab to law enforcement highlights a unique pathway that Hong Kong Customs is promoting: attracting talent from diverse professional backgrounds. This approach not only enriches the agency’s operational capabilities but also fosters innovative problem-solving techniques within the force.

Shirley Hu is not just breaking barriers in her professional pursuits but is also actively encouraging more women to join her in customs enforcement. Despite the physical endurance tests being gender-neutral, with an 80% pass rate among female candidates compared to 90.5% for males, Hu advises prospective female recruits to focus on their weaker areas and utilise online resources to improve their performance.

As part of her efforts to inspire more women, Hu often shares her experiences and strategies for succeeding in the rigorous selection process. Her work is a testament to the increasing inclusivity and opportunities within Hong Kong Customs for women.

Hong Kong Customs is currently in the midst of a recruitment drive, with applications open until 5th June. The agency is looking for candidates who are not only physically capable but also quick-witted and well-versed in current affairs, as modern smuggling techniques require sharp analytical skills and excellent situational awareness.

Candidates undergo a comprehensive selection process, where they are tested on their physical fitness, problem-solving abilities, and professional knowledge. Hu exemplifies the type of inspector Hong Kong Customs seeks: one who can combine domain expertise with practical enforcement skills.

Beyond her enforcement duties, Hu’s role involves public engagement where she explains the significance of customs work in safeguarding society. These interactions are crucial for building public trust and demonstrating the effectiveness of the customs service in maintaining the security and economic integrity of Hong Kong.