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Chief Executive John Lee said that he attaches great importance to the fire that broke out this morning at the New Lucky House building in Jordan and has instructed relevant departments to follow up on the incident. He made the statement after visiting some of the people who were injured in the blaze at Queen Elizabeth Hospital this afternoon, adding that he has called on the Hospital Authority to make every effort to treat all of the injured. He has also instructed the relevant departments, including Police and the Fire Services Department, to investigate the cause of the fire. In terms of assisting people affected by the fire, Mr Lee said Henry G. Leong Yaumatei Community Centre has been opened as a temporary shelter and District Services & Community Care Teams have been sent to render support for people in need. Meanwhile, the Housing Bureau and the Housing Department are closely liaising with the Home Affairs Department and Social Welfare Department to make every effort to offer assistance to the affected residents, including helping them with arrangements to stay in transitional housing or temporary shelters. Additionally, the Chief Executive stressed that emergency services departments in Hong Kong are committed to responding promptly, effectively and with utmost professionalism. “First of all, in respect of our response to fire incidents, I believe the departments, including the Fire Services Department and the supporting departments, are all very professional. They are very good at providing an immediate response and taking rescue actions.  “In respect of general fire safety, we have a system ensuring aged buildings when their safety standard needs to be upgraded, there is a system for the Fire Services Department to demand extra installations for fire safety, and that is done through directions, and of course, there will be penalties for those who do not comply with the directions. “In regard to ensuring fire safety, there are regular inspection visits by the Fire Services Department and by the Buildings Department as well.”
The Government gazetted two notices today to facilitate the choice of dying in place for terminally ill patients in residential care homes (RCHs). Pursuant to the notices which will come into effect on June 3, if a resident who passed away in an RCH was diagnosed as having a terminal illness while alive and was attended to by a registered medical practitioner within 14 days before passing away, and the resident’s cause of death certificate states that he or she died of a natural cause, the case will no longer be considered as a reportable death to the Coroners Court. To tie in with the amended legislation, the Social Welfare Department will promulgate guidelines for residential care homes for people with disabilities and residential care homes for the elderly that are not nursing homes. The department will also provide training such as end-of-life care for RCH staff to help them implement the dying-in-place arrangements. The two notices will be laid before the Legislative Council for negative vetting next Wednesday.
A National Security Education Study Tour, organised by the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government, concluded today, with its 75 participants returning to Hong Kong from the Mainland this afternoon. Principals, teachers and outstanding students from 17 secondary schools participated in the tour, which started on March 29 and encompassed Beijing, Shanghai and Hangzhou. The participants were mainly selected via the Territory-wide Inter-school National Security Knowledge Challenge, which was jointly organised by the Department of Justice, the Security Bureau, the Education Bureau, and the Shine Tak Foundation. In Beijing, the group visited Tiananmen Square to observe a flag-raising ceremony, climbed the Tiananmen Tower, and toured the Palace Museum and the Museum of the Communist Party of China. In Shanghai, they visited a Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China exhibitiion hall and the National Security Education Exhibition Hall. In Hangzhou, they visited the Hangzhou National Archives of Publications & Culture, the Liangzhu Museum, and the Alibaba Xixi Park, among other attractions. They also interacted and exchanged ideas with teachers and students from the Experimental High School Attached to Beijing Normal University at the China Science & Technology Museum. At the tour’s opening ceremony in Beijing, Secretary for Education Choi Yuk-lin, Committee for Safeguarding National Security of the Hong Kong SAR Secretary General Au Chi-kwong and members of the study tour were received by Central People’s Government Hong Kong & Macao Work Office Deputy Director Nong Rong. Under Secretary for Security Michael Cheuk participated in the visit to Hangzhou and the closing ceremony. To inspire the participants, Mr Cheuk quoted the Four Sentences of Hengqu: “To ordain conscience for Heaven and Earth. To secure life and fortune for the people. To continue lost teachings for past sages. To establish peace for all future generations.” He said he hoped the participants would continue to take responsibility for safeguarding national security and strive for the betterment of Hong Kong and the country.
The Government announced today a revision to the policy on applications to change the sex entry on people’s Hong Kong identity cards. From now on, individuals who have not completed full sex reassignment surgery (SRS) may still apply to change the sex entry on their identity cards provided they satisfy certain revised criteria.  The change to the policy comes in view of the judgment handed down by the Court of Final Appeal in Q & Tse Henry Edward v Commissioner of Registration on February 6, 2023. The Government said it had completed a review of the policy following that ruling. It said it had prudently considered the policy’s objective, as well as relevant legal and medical advice, and drawn reference from relevant practices overseas. Under the revised policy, if a person who has not completed full SRS is able to show evidence, by way of relevant medical proof and supporting documents, of having completed surgical treatment such as the removal of breasts or removal of the penis and testes, may make an application. An applicant must make a statutory declaration to confirm he or she has, or had, gender dysphoria, has lived in the opposite sex throughout the period of at least two years ending on the date on which the application is made, and will continue to live in the opposite sex for the rest of his or her life. Another condition is that an applicant must have been undergoing relevant hormonal treatment throughout the period of at least two years continuously before the date on which the application is made. An applicant also must confirm that he or she will continue to undergo relevant hormonal treatment and submit blood test reports as requested by the Director of Immigration for random checking of his or her hormonal profile. The Immigration Department will process applications that have been received but have yet to be processed in accordance with the revised policy, and will take the initiative to contact individual applicants for follow-up action. The Government emphasised that the revision concerns the policy on changes to the sex entry on Hong Kong identity cards only, and that the sex entry on a Hong Kong identity card does not represent the holder’s sex as a matter of law. It added that the change does not affect any other government policies, or the handling of any other gender-related matters under the law, or relevant legal procedures.
Three pieces of subsidiary legislation related to places of detention for immigration detainees will be gazetted on April 5. They are the Immigration (Places of Detention) (Amendment) Order 2024, the Immigration Service (Designated Places) (Amendment) Order 2024 and the Immigration Service (Treatment of Detained Persons) (Amendment) Order 2024. Following the completion of construction of the new Immigration Headquarters in Tseung Kwan O in the third quarter of 2023, relevant offices and facilities are being relocated in phases to the new headquarters in 2024. The new headquarters will provide a detention centre, which will replace the existing Ma Tau Kok Detention Centre located at the Ma Tau Kok Road Government Offices. As with the current Ma Tau Kok centre, the new detention centre will be used for short-term detention of immigration offenders pending inquiry, prosecution, court hearing or transfer to other detention facilities. Moreover, following the completion of ongoing development at Hong Kong International Airport, additional detention quarters will be set up by the Immigration Department at the airport for short-term detention of people pending examination, inquiry, a decision to give or refuse permission to land, or removal from Hong Kong after permission to land is refused. In order to include the above new detention centre/quarters as places of detention, the Government needs to amend the relevant Schedule to the Immigration (Places of Detention) Order and the Immigration Service (Designated Places) Order. The Schedule to the Immigration Service (Treatment of Detained Persons) Order will also be amended to include the detention centre at the new headquarters. As the Ma Tau Kok centre will cease operations when the detention centre at the new headquarters begins operations, the Government will also take the opportunity to repeal the references to the Ma Tau Kok centre in the three pieces of subsidiary legislation at the end of this year. The three pieces of subsidiary legislation will be tabled at the Legislative Council for negative vetting on April 10 and are expected to take effect on May 31. Repeal of references to the Ma Tau Kok centre is expected to start on December 2.
The Working Group on the Greater Bay Area (GBA) Mediation Platform published the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area Mediator Accreditation Rules (Hong Kong Special Administrative Region) today. Under the rules, an applicant who wishes to apply for accreditation as a GBA Mediator through Hong Kong must fulfil specific requirements, including upholding the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), the Basic Law of the Hong Kong SAR of the PRC, the Basic Law of the Macao SAR of the PRC, and “one country, two systems”. The applicant should also complete the designated GBA Mediator Training Course successfully; complete mediation in at least five cases; possess at least five years' work experience, with at least three years as a mediator as well as have good professional ethics with no record of being reprimanded or disciplined for disrepute or professional misconduct. Comprising representatives from the legal departments of Guangdong Province, the Hong Kong SAR and the Macao SAR, the working group earlier discussed the respective local accreditation rules in each of the three places and decided to publish the rules today. The Department of Justice of Hong Kong formulated the rules applicable to the accreditation through Hong Kong, based on the requirements of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area Mediator Accreditation Standards.
The Government has provided Christian Zheng Sheng College with over $1 million in emergency relief from the Beat Drugs Fund to meet the school’s imminent needs and tide it over difficult times. The Security Bureau’s Narcotics Division made the statement today in response to media enquiries about Zheng Sheng College calling for help from the Government as it is running out of financial resources essential to its teachers and students. It said the emergency funding aims to prevent the school’s operation from being affected by the behaviours of certain wanted individuals. It pointed out that the board members of Christian Zheng Sheng Association have been under police investigation for a while. A number of wanted board members, including founder Lam Hay-sing and Zheng Sheng College principal Alman Chan, are still at large. The operation of the school has all along relied on funding from Zheng Sheng Association. Despite multiple requests from the Government and Zheng Sheng College, Lam Hay-sing did not transfer funds to the college from the bank account of Zheng Sheng Association. As a result, the school does not have enough money to take care of its teachers and students. The Government has all along placed the welfare of the college's teachers and students as a top priority. To prevent them from being affected, including the seven students who will sit for public examinations, the Government has taken the initiative to swiftly allocate relief funds to tide the school over these difficult times. The Narcotics Division said Lam Hay-sing has been using different excuses to prevent the funds in the association's bank account from being transferred to the college for maintaining its daily operation, let alone for restructuring the board to completely resolve the fund transfer issue. It strongly condemns the disreputable and selfish acts of these wanted people. “We appeal to them not to put their selfishness and personal benefits above the welfare of the teachers and students of Zheng Sheng College, and not to squander the goodwill of the people who donated to Zheng Sheng Association. “We urge them to abide by law, return to Hong Kong soon and make amends.”
The Education Bureau today called on the public to stay vigilant against a fraudulent WhatsApp message that falsely claims to be issued by school personnel and requests parents to transfer a tuition fee to apply for the Gifted Education Fund: Off-school Advanced Learning Programmes. The case has been reported to Police. All Gifted Education Fund: Off-school Advanced Learning Programmes for primary and secondary school students are free of charge, and registration must be made through the bureau's designated programme providers. Citizens are advised to stay alert to suspicious messages and not disclose personal information or transfer any fees. Anyone who has been scammed should contact Police immediately. For enquiries, call the bureau at 3698 3486.
The Customs & Excise Department detected a total of 19,120 cases in 2023, a 1.7-fold increase from the 2022 figure. Commissioner of Customs & Excise Louise Ho announced the figures during a press conference today to review the department’s work last year. Among the cases detected, about 62% were related to illicit cigarettes, followed by cases related to dangerous drugs and intellectual property rights infringement. Ms Ho pointed out that the number of illicit cigarette cases in 2023 increased 2.4-fold to 11,805 cases from 2022, with 652 million cigarettes seized, representing an 11% drop year-on-year. This was due to the bounce back of cross-boundary passenger and vehicle trips following the full resumption of normal travel between the Mainland and Hong Kong early last year, the increased duty on cigarettes announced in the Budget as well as the enhanced enforcement actions against visitors bringing in excessive quantities of duty-free cigarettes and the selling and buying of illicit cigarette activities in the city, she explained. Ms Ho also noted that the department detected 1,362 drug cases in 2023, a 46% increase compared to the previous year. A total seizure of about 9.5 tonnes of drugs was made, representing a surge of 37% from 2022. In addition, Customs detected 703 intellectual property rights infringement cases last year, representing an annual increase of 34%. The seizure value of infringing items rose 60% to around $288 million as compared to 2022's figure. Meanwhile, a total of 221 smuggling cases were detected last year, a 2% drop on 2022, with the total seizure value increasing 1.4-fold to $3.165 billion.  Ms Ho also outlined the department’s work to facilitate trade and clearance, adding that a dedicated express route for air and land fresh and live products is expected to be launched in the second quarter of this year to facilitate the export of high-quality food from the Mainland to overseas markets, as well as introducing fresh products from other places into the Mainland. She revealed that the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Customs Clearance Information Platform will be launched in the first half of this year, to provide a one-stop service for travellers and the transportation industry in the three places. As regards to human resources, Ms Ho said about 90 customs inspectors and 200 customs officers will be recruited this year.
(To watch the full media session with sign language interpretation, click here.) Chief Executive John Lee said today that the Government will continue to explain to both local and overseas business sectors that the Safeguarding National Security Ordinance will create stability and security. Answering questions from reporters ahead of the Executive Council meeting this morning, Mr Lee highlighted that attacks from overseas on the ordinance have continued. “As regard the overseas attacks against the Safeguarding National Security Ordinance, which has come into effect on March 23, we know that a lot of overseas politicians and organisations, because of their own political interests and purposes, they will continue to attack Hong Kong. “They will continue to attack our law despite the very fact that their own countries have more stringent laws, more wide-ranging laws, and more embracing laws to deal with national security offences. And some countries actually have much harsher laws to protect their own national security. “A lot of them turn a blind eye to what we have done, when we have so confidently and openly written the protection and safeguarding of human rights and freedoms into our law, which may not be the case in their own countries’ laws. “In recent cases, we have seen evidence to indicate overseas politicians have been actively interfering in Hong Kong affairs. The motives of these people are very clear. But we will ensure that we will continue to explain the merit of our Safeguarding National Security Ordinance, which, on the one hand, is a defensive law to protect our own interests, so that people do not dare to think about breaking into our house to cause harm to our family members, and harm our national security.” The Chief Executive stressed that the Government has been putting effort into ensuring the community, in particular the business sector, is well informed about the advantages of the ordinance.  “And we will ensure that we inform the community at large, both locally and overseas, that we have stringent safeguards in place to protect human rights and freedoms, which align with the international standards as described in the International Covenant on Civil & Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social & Cultural Rights. “We will, of course, talk to people in the business sector. We have been doing a lot of briefing sessions to chambers of commerce, both locally and chambers of foreign countries that are stationed in Hong Kong. “We will, of course, during our visits to overseas countries, continue to inform the business sector about the advantage of this law, which is to create stability and security, without which no investments can ever hope to thrive. With stability and security, then prosperity may come.”