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The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government today expressed its strong disapproval of and firm opposition to the ministries of foreign affairs of France and Germany for issuing a prize to Chow Hang-tung. Chow has been charged on suspicion of committing offences under the Hong Kong National Security Law (NSL). In a statement, the Hong Kong SAR Government indicated that she faces a criminal prosecution of incitement to subversion and that the case is awaiting trial in the Court of First Instance of the High Court. It added that as the ministries of foreign affairs of France and Germany have issued their prize to Chow in the name of “human rights” and the “rule of law” while judicial proceedings are still ongoing, this is obviously contrary to the spirit of respecting the rule of law. The Hong Kong SAR Government strongly urged these foreign countries to respect the rule of law, abide by international law and the basic norms that govern international relations, and immediately stop interfering in the affairs of Hong Kong. The statement also pointed out that Hong Kong is a society underpinned by the rule of law and has always adhered to the principle that laws must be obeyed and lawbreakers held accountable. It emphasised that Hong Kong’s law enforcement agencies take actions based on evidence and strictly in accordance with the law against those who endanger national security. It added that the Department of Justice is in charge of criminal prosecutions under Article 63 of the Basic Law, with all prosecutorial decisions being made based on an objective analysis of all admissible evidence and applicable laws. Meanwhile, the Judiciary exercises judicial power independently in accordance with the law, and everyone charged with a criminal offence has the right to a fair hearing. The statement also outlined that Hong Kong residents enjoy rights and freedoms under the Basic Law, the Hong Kong Bill of Rights Ordinance and other relevant laws. It added that the NSL clearly stipulates that human rights shall be respected and protected in the safeguarding of national security in the Hong Kong SAR, and that the rights and freedoms Hong Kong residents enjoy under the Basic Law, and under the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil & Political Rights, as well as the International Covenant on Economic, Social & Cultural Rights as applied to Hong Kong, shall be protected in accordance with the law. The statement reiterated that the Hong Kong SAR Government will continue to resolutely discharge its responsibility of safeguarding national security, effectively preventing, suppressing and punishing acts and activities that endanger national security, whilst also safeguarding the rights and freedoms enjoyed by Hong Kong people under the law.
The Court of First Instance of the High Court today struck out China Concrete's civil claim against the Environmental Protection Department on the operation of its concrete batching plant at 22 Tung Yuen Street, Yau Tong. In handing down its decision, the court pointed out that on whether the plant is required to have a Specified Process Licence (SPL) to operate, China Concrete had disclosed no reasonable causes of action and abused the legal process on filing a civil claim against the department. Therefore, the court allowed the Department of Justice's (DoJ) application on striking out China Concrete's claims and ordered the costs of the proceedings be paid by China Concrete. The Environmental Protection Department welcomes the court's decision. China Concrete filed in their claims to the High Court on August 8, 2022, that according to the Air Pollution Control Ordinance, its concrete batching plant at 22 Tung Yuen Street did not require obtaining an SPL to operate. China Concrete believed that the department misinterpreted the definition on silo capacity set out in the ordinance, and requested the court to declare that the plant does not require an SPL to operate and for the department to compensate for the losses caused by the alleged illegal operation of the plant without a licence. The DoJ applied to the High Court on October 28, 2022 on behalf of the depatment to strike out the relevant claims. The High Court conducted a hearing on the striking-out application on June 6, 2023, and handed down the judgment today, striking out China Concrete's relevant claims. The department said it will continue to closely monitor the concrete batching plants at Tung Yuen Street, Yau Tong. If violations and/or operations are found to cause air pollution nuisance, enforcement action will be taken and the evidence collected will be passed onto the DoJ for consideration and appropriate follow-up. Additionally, the department is working on the legislative amendments of the Air Pollution Control Ordinance to enhance enforcement power for closing illegal premises, enabling the department to handle similar cases more efficiently and effectively in the future. The amendments are set to be introduced into the Legislative Council in the first quarter of next year.
The Electronic Traffic Enforcement (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill 2023, for establishing a legal framework to allow Police to issue penalty tickets against traffic offences or contraventions by electronic means, was published in the Government Gazette today. The Transport & Logistics Bureau noted that its target is to effect the electronic traffic enforcement regime progressively in 2024. It explained that the existing legislation does not allow the issuance of fixed penalty notices (FPNs) on traffic contraventions by electronic means. As a result, the bureau had to amend the law to allow Police to serve FPNs electronically, such as via SMS or email. It added that modifying the law will also allow the Transport Department to collect mobile phone numbers or email addresses from vehicle owners and drivers for the purpose of traffic enforcement. Issuing electronic FPNs in relation to traffic contraventions is one of the new initiatives to promote Smart Mobility in the Government’s Smart City Blueprint. The Government believes that such a move could increase traffic enforcement efficiency through the application of technology. In the long run, the new regime is also expected to foster a better driving attitude, which is conducive to reducing traffic accidents and illegal parking, so as to enhance road safety and alleviate traffic congestion. Police will launch a dedicated website and a mobile app for citizens to check their FPNs and settle such penalties via electronic payment. The existing mode of payment, however, will be retained. Additionally, corresponding education and publicity efforts will be stepped up to help people to better understand the implementation of electronic FPNs. Electronic Traffic Enforcement (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill 2023 will be introduced into the Legislative Council for first and second reading on December 13.
The National Security Department of the Hong Kong Police Force today arrested a 77-year-old man in Cheung Sha Wan on suspicion of attempting or preparing to attempt an act or acts with seditious intention, contravening sections 9 and 10 of the Crimes Ordinance. Police emphasised that attempting or preparing to attempt an act or acts with seditious intention is a serious crime liable to two years’ imprisonment on first conviction and three years’ imprisonment on subsequent convictions.
Chief Secretary Chan Kwok-ki today inspected 79 probationary inspectors and 94 probationary officers on parade at the Hong Kong Customs College. Among the officers passing out, six probationary inspectors were members of the Customs Youth Leader Corps. Together with the Guards of Honour, the officers passing out adopted the Chinese-style foot drill to form a bauhinia pattern representing the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region as a symbol of their allegiance to it. They then formed a pattern representing the planet in a demonstration of their support of customs activities relating to the Belt & Road Initiative. The performance concluded with a pattern symbolising the District Council election by way of an appeal to electors to cast their votes. Mr Chan said that with staunch support at a national level, Hong Kong has been focused on fully implementing the National Security Law and embarking on a new journey from stability to prosperity in the wake of the pandemic. He added that the Customs and Excise Department shoulders four important missions: safeguarding national security and maintaining social stability; capitalising on Hong Kong’s advantages of enjoying the motherland’s support and close connections with the rest of the world; work to benefit people’s livelihoods; and promotion of youth development. The Chief Secretary urged the officers passing out to fufil the department’s ideal of “connectivity towards security and prosperity”, and to provide a quality service.
Hong Kong Special Administrative Region passport holders may now visit the Republic of Angola and the Kyrgyz Republic without a visa for up to 30 days, the Immigration Department announced today. The Hong Kong SAR Government received notification from the government of Angola that Hong Kong SAR passport holders may visit the country visa-free for a stay of up to 30 days and a maximum stay of 90 days per year. The government of Kyrgyzstan also confirmed that Hong Kong SAR passport holders may visit the country visa-free for a stay of up to 30 days entering through Manas International Airport in Bishkek with a return air ticket and re-enter after 30 days from the date of departure from Kyrgyzstan. Noting that Angola and Kyrgyzstan are participants in the Belt & Road Initiative, the department said the visa-free arrangements will bring greater travel convenience, and strengthen tourism, cultural and economic ties between the places. Including Angola and Kyrgyzstan, 171 countries and territories allow visa-free or visa-on-arrival access to Hong Kong SAR passport holders.
Deputy Secretary for Justice Cheung Kwok-kwan today attended the fifth Greater Bay Area Legal Departments Joint Conference in Macau, where the legal departments of Hong Kong, Guangdong and Macau reached a consensus on the joint development of a collaborative online dispute resolution platform. The Department of Justice explained that the platform aims to integrate information and resources in relation to mediation and arbitration, in order to facilitate resource sharing for the benefit of the public and promote the use of mediation to resolve disputes. Moreover, the hub is conducive to promoting the use of lawtech and contributing to the development of diversified dispute resolution mechanisms in the bay area, the department added. At today’s conference, good progress was also made in advancing the “soft connectivity” of rules, systems and talent in Hong Kong, Guangdong and Macau. On mediation and arbitration, the three parties have conducted in-depth discussions on the respective formulation of mediator accreditation rules, the promotion of the establishment of panels of bay area mediators and arbitrators as well as the promotion and research of recognising and enforcing settlement agreements. As regards training, conference participants agreed to set up a working group on nurturing bay area legal talent to study ways of enhancing collaboration on this front to fully capitalise on the bay area’s advantage of “one country, two systems and three jurisdictions”. Noting that the Greater Bay Area has an important strategic position in the new development setting of the country, Mr Cheung stressed that a better interface of the legal systems and rules as well as a connection of talent, will help promote the rule of law development in the bay area while further facilitating Hong Kong’s integration into the country’s overall development. Separately, he told conference attendees that the Department of Justice will set up a dedicated office and an expert group to take forward the policy initiative in the 2023Policy Address to establish the Hong Kong International Legal Talents Training Academy. This is in support of the country’s work in advancing the rule of law in foreign-related affairs by leveraging Hong Kong’s bilingual common law system and international status, Mr Cheung added.
(To watch the full media session with sign language interpretation, click here.) Chief Executive John Lee today said the Government will spare no effort in bringing fugitive offenders involved in endangering national security to justice. He made the statement this morning while responding to questions from the media concerning Agnes Chow, who was arrested on suspicion of colluding with a foreign country or with external elements to endanger national security, after she revealed that she plans to jump bail. Mr Lee said: “Now that she has claimed to plan to jump bail and abscond from Hong Kong, Police will do their utmost to pursue her, to arrest her. Fugitives will be pursued for life unless they turn themselves in.” Additionally, the Chief Executive pointed out that some people in Hong Kong still underestimate national security threats posed by foreign forces. “Those who committed the crime of collusion have become foreign agents. They have betrayed the trust of Hong Kong people. They have betrayed the interests of Hong Kong. “Hong Kong people must not ignore the interference of foreign forces in Hong Kong. They do it for their own political interests. They have not stopped.” He added that residents must not forget the suffering Hong Kong endured when the city was hit by riots in 2019. “Hong Kong must not forget the pain that we all had, despite the fact that the wounds of the 2019 riots and violence have somehow healed, but the pain should remain in our memory.” Mr Lee emphasised that the legislative exercise for Article 23 of the Basic Law must proceed with full strength. “The legislative exercise will be completed next year to ensure that Article 23 legislation, that we then enact, together with the National Security Law, will form a solid national security legal system to improve the overall legal enforcement mechanism to safeguard national security.”
Secretary for Justice Paul Lam continued his visit to Vietnam today by meeting representatives from its legal and commercial sectors and attending bilateral meetings with member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Mr Lam first met with the Vietnam Bar Federation in the morning to learn about developments in Vietnam’s legal sector and its legal services needs, and to discuss legal co-operation and exchanges between the two places. He then attended a lunch with representatives of the commercial sector. He spoke to them about Hong Kong’s unique advantages in enjoying strong support from the motherland while being closely connected to the world under “one country, two systems”, and about the city’s status as an international centre for legal and dispute resolution services in the Asia-Pacific region. In the afternoon, as a member of the visiting Chinese delegation, Mr Lam attended bilateral meetings between that delegation and ASEAN member states, namely Vietnam, Brunei, Singapore, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Myanmar. Mr Lam will attend the 13th China-ASEAN Prosecutors-General Conference tomorrow and deliver a speech at a plenary session hosted by Vietnam’s Prosecutor General of the Supreme People’s Procuracy Le Minh Tri. Mr Lam will conclude his visit to Vietnam and return to Hong Kong tomorrow evening.
The National Security Department of the Hong Kong Police Force said today it had taken note of a women’s claim on social media to have jumped bail. It strongly condemned her actions, which it said were irresponsible and against the rule of law. On August 10, 2020, the woman was arrested over suspected collusion with external elements. From late 2020 to mid-2021, she was sentenced to imprisonment for other offences. On being released on bail, she was restricted by Police from leaving Hong Kong according to Schedule 2, Article 43 of the National Security Law. Police said she had reported punctually and co-operatively. After she told Police that she wished to study abroad, and provided admission documents as a proof, they returned her travel documents and extended her bail until December. Police urged the woman to immediately turn back and not to choose a path of no return, adding that she would otherwise bear the stigma of a fugitive.