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Acting Secretary for Security Michael Cheuk, Commissioner of Police Siu Chak-yee and Commissioner of Customs & Excise Louise Ho today met United Nations Office on Drugs & Crime (UNODC) Executive Director and United Nations Office at Vienna Director-General Ghada Fathi Waly. Ms Waly is in Hong Kong until May 25 for the 8th Independent Commission Against Corruption Symposium. The UNODC delegation was first received by Mr Cheuk at the Jockey Club Drug InfoCentre where he presented the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region's crime-fighting policies as well as strategies in combating narcotics, which have enabled Hong Kong to become one of the safest cities in the world. After the session, the delegation exchanged ideas with the Mr Siu on anti-money laundering, anti-deception and cyber crimes, in particular how to underpin Hong Kong's role as an international city and financial centre through various law enforcement efforts. They also met Ms Ho during a visit to the Kwai Chung Customhouse, to gain firsthand knowledge of Customs' work, including how it combats drug trafficking and its efforts in stopping the transnational smuggling of endangered plants and animals. Mr Cheuk said: “We hope that the UNODC delegation could gain a better understanding of the latest situation in Hong Kong after the visit. “We are committed to international co-operation and working together with the UNODC on achieving its goal of making the world safer from drugs, crime, corruption and terrorism. We also look forward to further opportunities for our young people to participate in UNODC activities.”
Secretary for Justice Paul Lam concluded his visit to the Middle East in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), today with his delegation. Mr Lam had a meeting with Sharjah Chamber of Commerce & Industry Chairman Abdallah Sultan Al Owais this morning, to discuss and explore business opportunities in both places and related matters. This was followed by a visit to the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) Courts. The DIFC is an onshore financial centre in the UAE offering an independent legal and regulatory framework as well as a common law system. Operated as an independent English language common-law judiciary, the DIFC Courts has jurisdiction to hear civil and commercial disputes both regionally and internationally. During the visit, Law Society of Hong Kong President Chan Chak-ming and DIFC Courts Director Omar Al Mheiri signed a memorandum of understanding. Mr Lam was pleased to note that both sides would strengthen their co-operation to promote exchanges and the development of the legal professional services between Hong Kong and Dubai. In the afternoon, Mr Lam and his delegation visited Dubai International Arbitration Centre to meet its Chairman of the Board Tariq Humaid Al Tayer to exchange views and share experiences on the provision of a full spectrum of alternative dispute resolution services. For the last stop in Dubai, the justice chief and the delegation met Dubai Chambers President and CEO Mohammad Ali Rashed Lootah to learn more about local businesses and their need for multi-jurisdictional legal services, highlighting Hong Kong's robust legal system and its strengths in international legal and dispute resolution services. Mr Lam will arrive back in Hong Kong tomorrow.
It is a great pleasure to be here today to open this eighth ICAC Symposium, and to welcome each and every one of you - more than 500 high-profile professionals from 60 jurisdictions from six continents. You are anti-corruption law enforcers and experts, judges, prosecutors, legal practitioners, government regulators and officials, academics and more. You are here, over these next three days, to hear and consider promising ways forward under the theme of "Charting a New Path to Combat Corruption". You are here, as well, for the 11th Annual Conference of the International Association of Anti-Corruption Authorities. Despite your wide-ranging backgrounds, your goal is shared: how best to prevent and combat corruption, a problem that impedes the development, stability and well-being of societies and peoples around the world. This symposium is co-hosted by Hong Kong's Independent Commission Against Corruption, the ICAC, and the International Association of Anti-Corruption Authorities. As you all know, our ICAC is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. For half a century, the ICAC has championed the fight against corruption in Hong Kong. It has also worked closely with its counterparts around the world to tackle corruption. Indeed, the ICAC currently holds the presidency of the International Association of Anti-Corruption Authorities.  Under the unique "one country, two systems" principle, Hong Kong maintains a robust regulatory regime in line with international standards, and is renowned globally for its clean and efficient government, level-playing field for doing business, sound rule of law, a judiciary with independent judicial power, and zero tolerance for corruption. We are also at the forefront of the international fight against corruption. International surveys consistently confirm Hong Kong's success in tackling corruption. The World Justice Project rated us ninth, overall, in "absence of corruption", out of more than 140 jurisdictions in 2023. Similarly, Hong Kong was ranked 14th out of 180 countries and territories in Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index last year. These and other standings underscore Hong Kong's clean governance, as well as the ICAC's laudable anti-corruption efforts.  The people of Hong Kong substantiate these findings. The latest ICAC Annual Survey shows that Hong Kong citizens have a zero tolerance for corruption, with 98% of survey respondents indicating that they had not personally encountered corruption in the past 12 months. It is a priority of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government to sustain our pioneering role in combatting corruption. We are pleased, and proud, to back the ICAC in widening its international network and co-operating with overseas counterparts. We are committed, as well, to ensuring that our legal framework and anti-corruption institutions, as well as public and private sector governance, reflect the highest international obligations and standards, particularly those set out in the United Nations Convention against Corruption. China, our country, has designated the ICAC as an authority under the convention, helping other economies under the convention develop and implement preventive measures. And the ICAC, in its work as president of the International Association of Anti-Corruption Authorities since 2022, has overseen the association's membership soar from 120 agencies in different countries and regions to more than 170 now. This phenomenal growth has allowed the association to extend its work internationally. In just a moment, the ICAC will conclude the Memorandum of Understanding with the United Nations (UN) Office on Drugs & Crime and the anti-corruption authorities of Kazakhstan, Mauritius, Saudi Arabia and South Africa.  The presence of the UN Office on Drugs & Crime, as guardian of the convention, and the national anti-corruption authorities of various countries here in Hong Kong to finalise bilateral agreements with the ICAC, exemplify the international co-operation and exchange that can make a difference, regionally and globally. I congratulate the signatories on their impressive progress, and I look forward to more anti-graft partnerships between Hong Kong and other international jurisdictions. Ladies and gentlemen, corruption knows no boundaries. It is a plague on different economies, institutions and communities. It has a disrupting, and dispiriting, impact on every aspect of people's lives. Everyone here is fully aware of that overwhelming reality, because everyone here is working, hard, smart and relentlessly, to overcome it. In marking International Anti-Corruption Day, last December, the UN reiterated that "only through co-operation and the involvement of each and every person and institution, can we overcome the negative impact of this crime." And it is why this symposium was initiated, 24 years ago: to bring economies, governments, institutions and businesses together, imbued with the indomitable spirit that we will - that we must - prevail. ​Your participation in this symposium speaks of our collective determination. Chief Executive John Lee gave these remarks at the 8th ICAC Symposium on May 22.
Chief Executive John Lee today met Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs & Crime (UNODC) and Director-General of the United Nations Office at Vienna Ghada Fathi Waly.      Mr Lee welcomed Ms Waly as she and a delegation are visiting Hong Kong to attend the 8th Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) Symposium that began today, and sign the Memorandum of Understanding on behalf of the UNODC with the ICAC to strengthen collaboration on international anti-corruption. He said the UNODC’s dedication to leading its member countries to combat drugs, organised crime and terrorism has been highly valued, adding that the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government will continue to work with the agency to promote experience-sharing among their anti-graft counterparts and advance the international anti-corruption cause together.      Noting that Hong Kong is one of the cleanest cities in the world, Mr Lee attributed it to the Hong Kong SAR Government’s determination, a robust legal system and public support. He emphasised that the ICAC strives to strengthen liaison with overseas counterparts to push forward the effective implementation of the UN Convention against Corruption, promoting Hong Kong's anti-corruption achievements to the global community and the international graft-fighting collaborations. As part of these efforts, the ICAC has joined the UNODC's Global Operational Network of Anti-Corruption Law Enforcement Authorities to share its anti-corruption experiences with other representatives from various places. The Hong Kong International Academy Against Corruption, established earlier this year, co-organised an international anti-corruption training programme with the network to provide a learning platform for graft fighters from all over the world. The Chief Executive noted that with the support of the central government, the ICAC Commissioner has been President of the International Association of Anti-Corruption Authorities since 2022. He also explained that the ICAC co-hosted the symposium with the association to assemble representatives of anti-corruption agencies and experts around the world to exchange views on global strategies in anti-graft work.
Acting Secretary for Security Michael Cheuk today said the Government is prepared to raise the penalties for non-compliance with the Directions and Fire Safety Compliance Orders for buildings as a deterrent effect. Responding to questions from legislator Lo Wai-kwok in the Legislative Council, Mr Cheuk noted that the Government is expediting the work on amending the Fire Safety (Buildings) Ordinance to empower the Fire Services Department and the Buildings Department to carry out fire safety improvement works for the buildings whose owners have failed to comply with the ordinance's requirements and to recover the relevant fees upon completion of the defaulted works. He reiterated that timely and proper maintenance of private buildings is the responsibility of owners. “We propose to amend the ordinance and to arrange for defaulted works because we understand that some owners are facing genuine difficulties, and that empowering the Government to carry out defaulted works by way of amending the ordinance can assist those owners with genuine difficulties in enhancing the fire safety standards of those relevant buildings, providing better protection to them.” Acknowledging that there are views in the community that the deterrent effect of a penalty should keep up with the times, Mr Cheuk said with reference to penalties for offences of a similar nature or gravity, the Government is inclined to raise the penalties for non-compliance with the directions and compliance orders to a maximum of $100,000 and $200,000 respectively, as well as increase the corresponding daily fine. The amendments to the ordinance also include other different elements, such as introducing provisions against uncooperative owners to prevent anyone from intentionally obstructing an owners' corporation in complying with the requirements of the ordinance, empowering the Government to register instructions of the ordinance issued against the involved buildings or their parts in the Land Registry. The Government strives to submit the proposed amendment bill to LegCo for scrutiny in July. Mr Cheuk also hopes the measures will effectively strengthen the deterrent effect and encourage owners to comply with the ordinance, with a view to enhancing the compliance rate.
The Government said today it will instigate prosecution proceedings against building owners who ignore the Fire Safety Directions or make poor progress without reasonable excuse starting from this quarter. The Government continues to follow up on the fire incident at New Lucky House and the non-compliance issues with the Fire Safety Directions revealed therein. At present, there are about 9,000 buildings with expired directions and which have not yet complied with the directions. Excluding some thousands of buildings which have applied for government subsidies, the Government will prioritise handling of over 2,000 buildings without active progress from the remaining buildings that have not yet complied with the directions. The Buildings Department (BD) will focus on handling buildings aged 50 years or above. Other prioritisation factors include those without fire service installations and equipment, buildings with a single-staircase design, buildings with more guest houses or unauthorised subdivided flats, or with large scale illegal structures. For these 2,000-plus buildings, the BD and the Fire Services Department (FSD), upon the issuance of warning letters or the expiry of the directions respectively, will instigate prosecutions against owners of buildings lacking progress without reasonable excuse starting from the second quarter. The Government will provide active support for building owners who are willing to comply with the directions. The two departments, together with the Home Affairs Department, will deploy staff to attend meetings of owners' corporations and explain the requirements of the Fire Safety (Buildings) Ordinance, as well as proactively liaise with the project consultants or registered fire service installation contractors engaged by the owners to offer appropriate assistance and advice. The Government will also strengthen support for subsidised buildings. Under the $5.5 billion Fire Safety Improvement Works Subsidy Scheme funded by the Government and implemented by the Urban Renewal Authority (URA), a total of about 3,000 applications have been issued with Approval-in-Principle Letters in the first two rounds. The URA is processing around 1,300 applications received in the third round that meet the basic requirements, and will start issuing Approval-in-Principle Letters to applicants starting from the end of this month. As for the subsidised buildings, the URA will strengthen monitoring of their fire safety improvement works progress by urging building owners who have not yet appointed consultants to expedite the course of actions and tightening the applications for deadline extensions for those lacking progress without a reasonable excuse. The URA will revoke the approval of subsidies for cases that fail to meet the progress requirements despite reminders. The FSD and the BD will hold district briefings regularly to explain the details of compliance with the directions, with the most recent one in Tsuen Wan to be held on May 23. Meanwhile, the Government is expediting the relevant work on amending the ordinance to empower the FSD and the BD to carry out fire safety improvement works for owners who have failed to comply with the requirements of the ordinance, and to recover the relevant fees from them upon completion of the defaulted works. It will strive to submit the proposed amendment bill to the Legislative Council for scrutiny in July.
The Commerce & Economic Development Bureau today alerted the public to fraudulent WhatsApp messages purportedly sent by the Secretary for Commerce & Economic Development (SCED). The bureau and SCED have no connection with the fraudulent messages which have been reported to Police. Citizens are reminded to stay alert to suspicious messages and not to disclose any personal information.
The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government has said it strongly condemns a “briefing” by the organisation “Hong Kong Watch” that makes untruthful, slandering and smearing remarks against Hong Kong’s Basic Law Article 23 legislation and requests the UK Government to impose sanctions on Hong Kong officials. In a press statement, the Hong Kong SAR Government said the briefing is intended to mislead the public and smear both the National Security Law and the Safeguarding National Security Ordinance. It asserted that the proposed sanctions amount to despicable political manipulation intended to intimidate Hong Kong SAR officials involved in safeguarding national security and interfere in China’s internal affairs, adding that they violate international law and the basic norms governing international relations. The Hong Kong SAR Government urged organisations with ulterior motives to stop smearing Hong Kong and interfering in its affairs, which are the internal affairs of China. It added that they should stop scaremongering and ensure their remarks about Hong Kong’s security laws are fair and just.  It also highlighted that Hong Kong Watch is a destabilising anti-China organisation that has repeatedly called for sanctions by foreign countries against officials of the Central People’s Government and the Hong Kong SAR Government. It said that members of the public in Hong Kong and the international community should therefore see the organisation in its true colours and not be misled by its skewed remarks. Stressing that it will not be intimidated, the Hong Kong SAR Government said it will continue to safeguard national security without fear, so that the city can focus its efforts on economic development, improving people’s livelihoods and maintaining long-term prosperity and stability.
Secretary for Justice Paul Lam arrived in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, today with a 30-person delegation and began a two-day visit to the city to promote Hong Kong's legal and dispute resolution services and enhance co-operation between the two places. Mr Lam met legal and business sectors there during a lunch and networking reception, at which the participants were briefed on Hong Kong's unrivalled advantages of enjoying strong support from the motherland while being closely connected to the world under "one country, two systems". Mr Lam pointed out that as the only common law jurisdiction within China, Hong Kong's well-established legal system and top-notch legal and dispute resolution services give the city a unique edge which attracts business opportunities from across the globe. It is also an ideal gateway for the Middle East businesses and legal sectors to access the Mainland market, he added. Mr Lam then visited the office of a leading artificial intelligence software company born in Hong Kong to gain a better understanding of the business opportunities and challenges for the Hong Kong enterprises operating in Saudi Arabia. He also attended a dinner with Ambassador Extraordinary & Plenipotentiary of the People's Republic of China to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Chang Hua. The Secretary for Justice’s first-day programme included a tour of the At-Turaif District in ad-Dir'iyah, a UNESCO World Heritage Site on the outskirts of Riyadh, which was the first capital of the Saudi Dynasty.
Secretary for Justice Paul Lam will lead a delegation today on a five-day visit to Riyadh in Saudi Arabia, and Abu Dhabi and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates to promote Hong Kong's legal and dispute resolution services and enhance the city’s co-operation with the Middle East. The delegation comprises about 30 representatives from the Law Society of Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Bar Association, Hong Kong Exchanges & Clearing, Invest Hong Kong and related sectors. In addition to meeting legal and business sectors to gain a better understanding of their need for cross-jurisdictional legal services, Mr Lam will call on relevant government officials to discuss areas of legal co-operation. The Secretary for Justice will speak to the legal and business sectors in Riyadh at a networking luncheon, and in Dubai at a half-day forum and a networking luncheon. Mr Lam will depart for Hong Kong on May 23. During his absence, Deputy Secretary for Justice Cheung Kwok-kwan will be Acting Secretary.