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Chief Executive Carrie Lam today received the Report on the Grade Structure Review for the Disciplined Services and said the Government aims to seek approval of the revised grade structures by the Legislative Council within this legislative year. The review was conducted by the Standing Committee on Disciplined Services Salaries & Conditions of Service, and the Standing Committee on Directorate Salaries & Conditions of Service. In a statement, Mrs Lam said she announced in the 2018 Policy Address that a grade structure review would be carried out to ensure that the grade structures and remuneration of the disciplined services are effective in attracting and retaining talent. Upon the Government’s invitation, the two standing committees conducted a thorough review of matters concerning the disciplined services, including their job nature, operating environment and challenges, as well as their recruitment and retention situation and career progression. Mrs Lam thanked both committees for their effort in completing the review. The Chief Executive said she has instructed the Civil Service Bureau to consult relevant stakeholders and examine the review findings and recommendations as soon as possible, with an aim of seeking approval of the revised grade structures by the Legislative Council within this legislative year. She also pointed out that the committees had taken note of concerns expressed by the staff side on matters that went beyond grade structure issues. They have also addressed those matters in the report for consideration by the Government. Mrs Lam said she would invite relevant bureaus or departments to consider those concerns separately to come up with a government response. The Civil Service Bureau noted that more than 1,380 submissions were received from members of the public regarding the review. It said the Government will submit as soon as possible its recommendations on the way forward to the Chief Executive-in-Council for a final decision, aiming to table the final recommendations for LegCo approval within the council's current term.
(To watch the full media session with sign language interpretation, click here.) Chief Executive Carrie Lam today said Police's enforcement action against Apple Daily was targeted at offences under the National Security Law and not aimed at suppressing the media. Mrs Lam made the remarks at a media session ahead of the Executive Council meeting this morning. She noted that the police operation was targeted at illegal acts suspected of endangering national security that are clearly stipulated in the law and had nothing do to with normal journalistic work. “I can only say what is breaching the law based on the advice from my enforcement authorities as well as the Department of Justice, what activities or acts will be suspected of breaching the laws of Hong Kong, including the National Security Law. And the law is very well defined. “This piece of the National Security Law has embraced all the important legal concepts in every piece of legislation. There is presumption of innocence before trial. There are very clear offences to be raised. And the four types of offences endangering national security are also well defined. “So journalists should be in a position to judge whether one is breaching the law.” The Chief Executive also rejected accusations that the Government is attacking press freedom. "What we are talking about is not exchanging views between foreigners and journalists. It is violating the law, as defined in the National Security Law and based on very clear evidence, which will bring the case to court. "So do not try to underplay the significance of breaching the National Security Law, and do not try to accuse the Hong Kong authorities for using the National Security Law as a tool to suppress the media or to stifle the freedom of expression.”
Police National Security Department today conducted a search operation at a media company in Tseung Kwan O with a warrant and arrested five company directors who are suspected of contravening the National Security Law. Police said the warrant was issued under Article 43(1) of the National Security Law and Schedule 1 of the Implementation Rules, covering the power of searching and seizure of journalistic materials. The search operation aimed to gather evidence for a case of suspected contravention of the National Security Law, the force added. The four men and one woman arrested, aged 47 to 63, are suspected of collusion with a foreign country or with external elements to endanger national security, contravening Article 29 of the National Security Law. They are detained for investigation. Police also conducted searches at the arrestees' residences.
Secretary for Security John Lee today said using journalism as a tool to endanger national security should be differentiated from normal journalistic work. Police's National Security Department conducted a search operation at a media company in Tseung Kwan O today and arrested five company directors on suspicion of collusion with a foreign country or with external elements to harm national security, contravening the National Security Law. The arrestees are suspected of publishing print and online news articles calling on foreign countries to impose sanctions on Hong Kong and the Mainland. Mr Lee said: “We are not talking about media work or journalists’ work. We are talking about a conspiracy in which the suspects have tried to make use of journalistic work to collude with a foreign country or external elements to impose sanctions or take hostile activities against Hong Kong and the People’s Republic of China.” He added that journalists working in Hong Kong must abide by its laws and urged them to keep a distance from those in the profession who commit unlawful acts. “Normal journalistic work of course, takes place freely and lawfully in Hong Kong. And I do not envisage any professional journalist would be conspiring to do any act to endanger national security. “The suspects have been arrested on strong evidence that they are conspiring to endanger national security. “It is your choice whether you will regard them as part of you, who go about your journalistic work lawfully and properly.”
Secretary for Security John Lee today said Taishan Nuclear Power Station is operating within nuclear power safety requirements and that the release of operational information complies with international standards. Having maintained close contact with Guangdong's Nuclear Emergency Committee Office as well as the National Nuclear Safety Administration, Mr Lee made it clear the power plant is safe. “We have been given the information that the operation of the Taishan nuclear plant is safe and there is no indication of any effect on the environment. So it is operating within all the requirements regarding nuclear power safety. “All the information that is released will be in accordance with the international standard.” He added that only two incidents occurred at Taishan Nuclear Power Station this year, both of which were classified as Level 0 events that did not affect the unit’s safe operation, workers’ health, the nearby communities or the environment. “In other words, they do not affect, in any way, nuclear safety,” Mr Lee stressed.
The Security Bureau today said it learnt from the National Nuclear Safety Administration that Taishan Nuclear Power Station is in a safe condition, and confirmed that there was no radiation leak to or impact on the environment. Noting that the Government is concerned about reports of a suspected radiation leak at Taishan Nuclear Power Station, the bureau said it liaised with relevant national ministries and commissions on June 14 and 15. Taishan Nuclear Power Joint Venture Company also indicated that according to its continuous radiation monitoring data, the indicators at the station and in its surroundings are normal. The bureau pointed out that the Government has maintained close co-operation and communication with Guangdong's Nuclear Emergency Committee Office. Relevant notification mechanisms on information exchange and notification arrangements during emergencies were established, covering different levels of accidents and incidents at all operating nuclear power stations in Guangdong, including non-emergency operational events. Two notifications regarding Taishan Nuclear Power Station have been received so far this year on operational events that occurred on February 21 and April 5. Both of them were Level 0 deviations and did not affect the unit's safe operation, workers' health, the nearby communities or the environment. The current situation at the station does not trigger the relevant notification mechanisms, the bureau added. It also emphasised that the Government attaches great importance to nuclear safety and has standing systems to monitor radiation levels of the environment, water and food for safeguarding public health. The monitoring systems include the Hong Kong Observatory's (HKO) radiation monitoring network, the Water Supplies Department's water contamination monitoring systems and the Food & Environmental Hygiene Department's food surveillance. According to the HKO's radiation monitoring results, the environmental radiation levels in Hong Kong remained normal over the past year. The bureau said it will continue to maintain close contact with the relevant national ministries and commissions, while the HKO will closely monitor the radiation levels in Hong Kong and strengthen its relevant work as necessary.
The Food & Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) conducted operations from June 11 to 13 to remind catering business and scheduled premises operators to strictly comply with the anti-epidemic regulations. The operation jointly conducted with Police covered bars, pubs and karaoke establishments in Mong Kok, Yau Tsim District, Central & Western District and Wan Chai. During the joint operation, 43 catering premises were inspected, while 1,657 catering premises and 292 other premises were inspected soley by the FEHD. The department initiated procedures on prosecution against seven catering business operators suspected of breaching the requirements under the Prevention & Control of Disease (Requirements & Directions) (Business & Premises) Regulation. Five of them were related to dine-in services provided after the specified time in catering premises, while the remaining two were related to more than four people allowed to be seated together at one table and failing to wear a mask. The department said it will continue law enforcement on all types of premises and inspect staff and customer vaccination records.
The Department of Justice (DoJ) is exploring a proposal to enable all legal officers serving in the Government (DoJ and some other Government departments) to be appointed as Senior Counsel. I wish to clarify all the unwarranted misunderstanding through the blog article today. Aligns with existing regime and merit-based selection principles In accordance with the existing arrangement, an eligible barrister may apply for appointment as Senior Counsel. The Chief Justice, may, after consultation with the Chairman of the Bar and the President of the Law Society, make the appointment. According to section 31(A) of the Legal Practitioners Ordinance, the eligibility requirements for the appointment include: (1) sufficient ability and standing, sufficient knowledge of law; (2) requisite experience; and (3) practising as an advocate. The proposal does not change the current regime and the criteria for appointment. I trust that the Chairman of the Bar and the President of the Law Society would duly consider the eligibility of each applicant before tendering their fair and honest advice to the Chief Justice for his consideration. Therefore, the proposal does not change the necessary ability and experience required by Senior Counsel and aligns with the merit-based selection principle. Legal officers perform both advocacy and non-advocacy duties The functions of legal officers and private legal practitioners are different. The proposal reflects the fact that there is no practical distinction between the duties of legal officers who are solicitors or barristers. Legal professionals in private practice are broadly categorised into two main streams: solicitors and barristers. However, legal officers in the Government, regardless of whether they are solicitors or barristers, have the rights of audience at all levels of courts. In fact, legal officers perform both solicitorial and advocacy duties. In other words, legal officers who are not admitted as a barrister in Hong Kong can also be assigned with advocacy duties. Legal officers who have satisfied the eligibility requirements under section 31(A) of the Legal Practitioners Ordinance deserve the same opportunity for consideration to be appointed Senior Counsel as recognition of their competence. The different role of solicitors and barristers in private practice would not be confused if one apprehends a good understanding of the work of legal officers. The proposal is in the public interest In addressing the Ceremony for the Admission of the New Senior Counsel, the Chief Justice expressed that “[t]he power of appointment, like all public law powers, must be exercised for the furthering of the public interest. Indeed it is this public interest that underscores the unique status and responsibilities of the rank of Senior Counsel… As a badge of responsibility, it denotes our community’s trust and expectation that an appointee will put his or her excellence and experience to good use by faithfully discharging the responsibilities placed on them, thereby serving the public interest.” The proposal encourages legal officers who shoulder important public functions and enables them to be recognised by judicial and legal sectors for their excellence, which is in line with the public interest. Arrangement for outgoing legal officers The proposal suggests that legal officers, who are appointed as a Senior Counsel in the new regime and left the Government's service, shall no longer carry the title of Senior Counsel. Matters relating to private practice should be dealt with by the self-regulatory regime, which is duly respected, in accordance with the established procedures and rules of the legal professional bodies. All legal officers, regardless of whether they are solicitors or barristers, deserve fair treatment and rights. In recognition of their competence and achievements, legal officers should be equally eligible for appointment as Senior Counsel upon satisfying the requirements under section 31(A) of the Legal Practitioners Ordinance. Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng wrote this article and posted it on her blog on June 12.
Secretary for the Civil Service Patrick Nip today attended the Correctional Services Department's passing-out parade at its Staff Training Institute in Stanley to mark the graduation of 22 Officers and 104 Assistant Officers II. Speaking at the parade, Mr Nip said the department has been guarding the last element of Hong Kong's criminal justice system for 100 years. Correctional officers are dedicated to ensuring a safe and secure custodial environment and have been proactively making efforts to help rehabilitate people in custody. He commended the department for arranging for more than 200 officers to be special constables to assist in stopping violence and curbing disorder during the social unrest and violent incidents in 2019. It also promptly arranged for more than 2,500 off-duty and retired staff members to engage in mask production on a voluntary basis to ramp up output to maintain the normal functioning of society and public services during the outbreak of COVID-19 last year. Additionally, the department participated in restriction-testing declaration operations in specified restricted areas and paid attention to the anti-epidemic work in correctional institutions to prevent the spread of the virus. It has also planned to arrange vaccinations for people in custody on a voluntary basis in early July, Mr Nip noted. With many people being detained in correctional institutions due to riot-related offences, the number of remands has reached a new high in nearly a decade. In view of the unprecedented challenges faced by the department, Mr Nip told graduates that he is confident that they will be able to rise to the challenges and overcome all difficulties to uphold the department's mission and values. Furthermore, the department has allocated considerable resources in recent years to improve staff welfare in order to recruit and retain staff and to enhance the professionalism of correctional work and the sense of belonging among officers, he added. Mr Nip pointed out that graduates should have gained a clear understanding of their responsibilities to uphold the Basic Law, bear allegiance and be responsible to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government, and be dedicated to their duties. He expressed the hope that they will uphold the core values of the civil service, support the Government and make concerted efforts to maintain Hong Kong's prosperity and stability.
Customs today said it detected the largest speedboat smuggling case on record and seized smuggled goods worth about $120 million during an operation earlier this month. At a press conference this morning, Customs Assistant Commissioner (Intelligence & Investigation) Chan Tsz-tat said more than 66,000 pieces of high-value goods, 2.3 tonnes of expensive food ingredients and 186kg of endangered species were seized in the operation conducted from June 2 to 7. This is the largest speedboat smuggling case detected by Customs on record in terms of seizure value, he added. In the small hours of June 2, officers detected a speedboat smuggling case in Lau Fau Shan. The smugglers discarded their goods and escaped via a speedboat. Customs followed up on the case and raided three warehouses and a residential flat in the New Territories. Four men aged between 35 to 62 were arrested and suspected smuggled goods were also seized from a warehouse. Investigations are ongoing. Customs Syndicate Crimes Investigation Bureau Head Mark Woo explained the challenges officers faced when combatting smuggling activities. Mr Woo said: “The syndicate carried out very sophisticated counter-surveillance activities on our officers. “They employed several speedboats to patrol in the western waters and they also sent some syndicate members to check the area surrounding the loading point in Lau Fau Shan. Finally, they even used drones to assist in their counter-surveillance activities. “So we needed to adjust our enforcement strategies constantly in order to circumvent their activities.” Mr Chan cited the pandemic as one of the reasons behind increasing smuggling activities across the boundary. “We observed that in the first half of this year, there were increasing smuggling activities between Hong Kong and the Mainland. I think one of the reasons is very obvious: because of COVID-19, the passenger flow between Hong Kong and the Mainland is seriously halted. “In the past, a lot of these luxury goods were delivered from Hong Kong to the Mainland by tourists or passengers. But now, they cannot do it under the pandemic, so smuggling rings have no other means but to resort to smuggling by sea mode. “That is one of the reasons why we see there are more sea smuggling activities this year.” Hong Kong and the Mainland have mounted a joint anti-smuggling operation codenamed Xun Lei since March.