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The total number of reported drug abusers in 2022 fell 14% from 2021 to 5,235, the Action Committee Against Narcotics announced today. According to the latest Central Registry of Drug Abuse figures, the number of reported drug abusers aged under 21 also declined by 19% to 718. The most common substances taken among drug abusers in 2022 were heroin, cocaine and "ice" (methamphetamine), while people under 21 mostly took cannabis, cocaine and ketamine. Cocaine became the most common psychotropic substance taken among drug abusers, overtaking "ice" for the first time in 10 years. According to a report published by the UN Office on Drugs & Crime in mid-March, coca cultivation surged by 35% between 2020 and 2021, while there is also an expansion of cocaine into non-traditional markets. The action committee noted that the impact of the international supply of drugs on Hong Kong should be closely monitored, adding that the higher number of young people taking cannabis and cocaine warrants attention.The number of people arrested for drug offences in 2022 dropped 14% to 4,005 compared with 2021. For the same period of comparison, the number of arrestees aged under 21 decreased by 29% to 483, with cannabis the main drug involved. Meanwhile, as high as 83% of the people prosecuted for drug offences were convicted. The committee's Chairman Donald Li noted that the resumption of social activities and travel presents new challenges to anti-drug work and the drug abuse figures in 2023 might rebound. The change of policies against drugs in some regions overseas, especially the relaxation of control on cannabis, and drug dealers attempting to promote drugs as a trendy and stress-relieving product will have an impact on the public's alertness against drugs, Dr Li said. The committee and the Security Bureau will enhance anti-drug efforts in collaboration with relevant departments in face of the challenges ahead, he added. With large-scale entertainment events and social gatherings becoming more frequent as society resumes full normalcy, and with a long holiday approaching in April, the Government reminded the public to stay away from drugs and not carry unknown items for others.
Chief Executive John Lee today inspected 43 probationary inspectors and 79 probationary officers on parade at the Hong Kong Customs College. Among the passing-out officers, three were Customs Youth Leader Corps members. The graduated inspectors will embark on their trip to the Shanghai Customs College on March 26, being the first batch to take the inspector induction course on national and Mainland customs operations studies. Speaking at the parade, Mr Lee pointed out that the National 14th Five-Year Plan clearly supports Hong Kong to enhance its role as an international maritime centre and international aviation hub. Playing a key role in the Greater Bay Area logistics chain, Hong Kong will continue to leverage its advantages as an international logistics hub to enhance international competitiveness. Mr Lee also said Customs has been an important force in the city’s participation in the Belt & Road Initiative and has also played an essential role in promoting Hong Kong’s integration into the national development. The mutual recognition arrangement on the Hong Kong Authorized Economic Operator Programme has facilitated Hong Kong enterprises to "go global" and tap into international markets, he added. The Chief Executive encouraged the passing-out officers to carry forward the goal of strengthening the connection to the country and the world in order to build a safe and efficient economic and trade environment. He also urged them to commit to providing quality services and the building of a strong China.
The Immigration (Advance Passenger Information) Regulation has been made under the Immigration Ordinance to provide legal backing for implementing an advance passenger information (API) system in Hong Kong, the Security Bureau said today. This follows the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) setting out a new rule under the updated Convention on International Civil Aviation (CICA), requiring each contracting state to establish the API system, the bureau explained. The API system is an electronic communications system through which travellers’ personal data and their corresponding aircraft information are collected and transmitted by the airline concerned to the border control agency prior to/after flight departure, so that the agency can immediately conduct a border security risk assessment for issuing boarding directions in respect of the travellers. The CICA is applicable to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, the bureau noted. To enable Hong Kong to meet the ICAO’s requirement and recommendations as well as to facilitate the Immigration Department to enhance its passenger clearance and enforcement capabilities to prevent undesirables, including potential non-refoulement claimants, from boarding flights heading to Hong Kong, it is necessary to implement the API system and give legal effect to it through the regulation. The regulation will specify the requirements on the airlines regarding the provision of the API data and the aircraft information of each traveller through the API system. While airlines are required to comply with the regulation with respect to inbound flights to Hong Kong, it is not applicable to flights departing from Hong Kong. The Immigration Department’s API system is now under development and is set to be rolled out in phases from the third quarter of 2024. The regulation, except for the parts relating to offences, penalty and defence, is planned for commencement alongside the rollout of the API system. To allow time for over 100 airlines to connect to the API system and to ensure it is run smoothly, a transitional period of around 12 months will be adopted such that the offences, penalty and defence for non-compliance with the requirements under the regulation will only take effect after system's full implementation. The regulation will be published in the Gazette on Friday and tabled at the Legislative Council for negative vetting next Wednesday, the bureau added.
For National Security Education Day on April 15, the five training schools of the disciplinary forces will be opened to the public. People can register online for free admission tickets starting tomorrow. The open day will be held at the five training schools - the Police College, the Immigration Service Institute of Training & Development, the Customs College, the Correctional Services Academy and the Fire & Ambulance Services Academy. Grand parades, exercise demonstrations, guided tours of the colleges, virtual reality experiences, game booths, and the introduction of state-of-the-art and professional equipment and sharing by frontline personnel will be held at the training schools. Members of the public can learn more about the forces' responsibilities of safeguarding and enhancing awareness of national security from these events. In addition, booths will be set up at the Police College to introduce the relevant work of the Security Bureau and its disciplinary forces and auxiliary services, including the Government Flying Service, the Civil Aid Service and the Auxiliary Medical Service. People may register through the links to obtain tickets. Successful applicants will receive a notification from the organiser. Click here for information on the open day.
The Government considers it necessary to retain the Prohibition on Face Covering Regulation (PFCR) for the time being and such a rule will not affect the wearing of masks by the public in their daily lives. Secretary for Security Tang Ping-keung made the statement today while answering lawmakers’ questions and took time to explain that the mandatory mask-wearing requirement and the PFCR are two separate matters. He pointed out that while the mandatory mask-wearing requirement deals with public health issues, the PFCR deals with occasions of public danger.  Furthermore, the PFCR is still in effect and Police will act based on evidence and strictly in accordance with the law when dealing with cases concerning the PFCR. Mr Tang said: “Although the mandatory mask-wearing requirements have now been lifted, we understand that the public may choose to continue to wear masks for a certain period of time. “The PFCR only regulates public meetings and public processions under the Public Order Ordinance, as well as unlawful or unauthorised assemblies. It will not affect the wearing of masks by the public in their daily lives.” Even if a person wears a mask at a public meeting or a public procession, whether this is in contravention of the PFCR depends on the actual circumstances of individual cases, Mr Tang pointed out. Police will make inquiries during law enforcement to examine whether the excuse put forward by a suspect was reasonable before deciding whether there is any reasonable suspicion to make an arrest. In considering whether to commence prosecution, Mr Tang stated that the Department of Justice will examine all evidence in a case and consider whether there is a reasonable prospect of conviction before making a prosecutorial decision. If the suspect is charged, he stressed that the court will also review all evidence to determine whether the suspect’s excuse was genuine and reasonable. The security chief emphasised that Hong Kong's national security risks still exist and in the light of the current situation, the PFCR will remain in force for the time being. He added that the Government will closely monitor the overall social situation and conduct reviews in a timely manner.
Police's National Security Department today arrested a 71-year-old man on Hong Kong Island for perverting the course of public justice. The man is being detained for enquiries.
The Government will table a bill at the Legislative Council tomorrow to handle matters concerning the participation of overseas lawyers who are not qualified to practise generally in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region in cases involving national security. The Department of Justice explained that the bill is in line with the spirit of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee’s interpretation of Article 14 and Article 47 of the National Security Law on December 30, 2022. Moreover, it pointed out that the bill seeks to amend the existing mechanism for admission of overseas lawyers in Hong Kong on a case-by-case basis by introducing new provisions for the handling of ad hoc admission for the purpose of national security cases. It will not affect ad hoc admission of overseas lawyers in criminal and civil cases not involving national security, the department added. The bill will provide an overriding principle that an overseas lawyer must not be admitted for a national security case, unless the Chief Executive has sufficient grounds for believing that the lawyer’s practising or acting as a barrister for the case does not involve national security, or would not be contrary to the interests of national security. Additionally, it will provide a mechanism for the Chief Executive to determine if an application may proceed and if it falls within the above-mentioned exceptional circumstance. There will also be another mechanism to enable the Chief Executive to review the matter when there is a change of circumstances after an ad hoc admission is granted. The department said the bill will not affect ad hoc admission applications made or handled by the court prior to the bill’s enactment. The LegCo Panel on Administration of Justice & Legal Services was consulted last week and it expressed support for the legislative proposal. Gazetted today, the Legal Practitioners (Amendment) Bill 2023 will be tabled at LegCo on March 22.
Chief Justice Andrew Cheung will lead a Judiciary delegation to visit Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Zhuhai for three days starting tomorrow, the Judiciary announced today. The delegation will meet Supreme People’s Court Vice-president Yang Wanming, visit court facilities, attend forums and have professional exchanges with Mainland judges and judicial staff on court operation matters and other judicial issues.  The Judiciary explained that this visit forms part of the ongoing exchanges between the Judiciary and the Mainland courts. The delegation will return to Hong Kong on March 22. During Mr Cheung’s absence, Permanent Judge of the Court of Final Appeal Roberto Alexandre Vieira Ribeiro will be Acting Chief Justice.
It is my great pleasure to join you at the opening ceremony of the 20th Willem C Vis East International Commercial Arbitration Moot, and I wish to express my warmest welcome to all of you. It is enlightening to see the active participation of the 111 university teams, consisting of 560 students and coaches, and over 400 registered arbitrators attending from around the world. I would also like to extend a special welcome to our distinguished guests and speakers, who have travelled from near and far to be here with us today. 20th anniversary Vis East MootTonight we kick start the moot by celebrating its 20th anniversary. On behalf of the Department of Justice (DoJ) of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government, may I first express my appreciation to Ms Barrington (Vis East Moot Foundation Director Louise Barrington), Ms Tung (Vis East Moot Foundation Deputy Director Sherlin Tung) and the Vis East Moot Foundation for their tremendous efforts and passion for holding the moot in the past two decades. It has provided a great platform to educate and foster the use of arbitration and to nurture new generations of international lawyers and arbitrators. The moot problem involves a dispute arising from a cross-border transaction relating to the sale or purchase of goods under the United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods (CISG) and other uniform international commercial law. The case preparation and oral hearings before arbitration practitioners and academics would provide valuable opportunities for students to not only develop and improve their research, advocacy and communication skills, but also to learn from other teams who are trained in another legal culture. Hosted in Hong Kong, the moot has earned a reputation as one of the most prestigious mooting competitions in the world. We are honoured and would continue to offer our support to the moot in the coming years. “Hello Hong Kong”Apart from welcoming you to the 20th anniversary of the moot, we must also celebrate being able to greet you in person after three years of holding the moot virtually due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. We are thrilled to see all of you participating in the moot in person. The best parts of the moot are the interaction, experience sharing, and the social and networking events for students, coaches and arbitrators during the coming week. After three years of travel restrictions, the Hong Kong SAR Government has launched a brand new promotional campaign. I am sure you have heard of it. It is “Hello Hong Kong” - to tell the world the good stories of our city and to unveil a series of exciting tourism experiences, cultural attractions and business opportunities. We are ready and very keen on presenting the best of Hong Kong to our overseas friends, so they can feel the vibrancy and dynamism of our city. Youth work & capacity buildingThe DoJ values the opportunity in co-organising the moot as we see the importance in nurturing the youth and capacity building. We believe that we have an important role to play in the future and career of young law students by providing them with opportunities to learn, grow, and network. By building the capacity of the next generation, we are ensuring that the legal and arbitration professionals will continue to thrive and make a positive impact on society. Opportunities in Hong Kong’s legal & dispute resolution professionIn this connection, let me take this opportunity to share with you some of the achievements and goalposts lying ahead for Hong Kong’s legal and dispute resolution profession. Unique benefits under “one country, two systems”: Gateway to Greater Bay Area & Greater ChinaUnder the principle of “one country, two systems”, Hong Kong continues to be the only common law jurisdiction within our country, where our law is enacted bilingually in both Chinese and English. The common law system provides a degree of certainty and predictability. It follows the same legal tradition as the world’s major economies and aligns with international business rules. Because of our cultural ties to the Mainland, our strategic geographical location, our East-meets-West culture and our outstanding legal and financial system, Hong Kong can act as a super-connector between the Mainland and the global market by bringing professional services, skills and talent to Mainland cities. Hong Kong has all along been enjoying strong support from the central government. For example, the National 14th Five-Year Plan, the Belt & Road Initiative and the Outline Development Plan for the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area explicitly support Hong Kong’s development into a centre for international legal and dispute resolution services in the Asia-Pacific region. Over the years, Hong Kong and the Mainland authorities have concluded three mutual legal assistance arrangements pertaining to arbitration, namely (1) Arrangement Concerning Mutual Enforcement of Arbitral Awards between the Mainland & the Hong Kong SAR (1999 Arrangement), (2) Supplemental Arrangement Concerning Mutual Enforcement of Arbitral Awards between the Mainland & the Hong Kong SAR (2020 Supplemental Arrangement) and (3) Arrangement Concerning Mutual Assistance in Court-ordered Interim Measures in Aid of Arbitral Proceedings by the Courts of the Mainland & of the Hong Kong SAR (Interim Measures Arrangement) recently. These arrangements are working well and play an important role in facilitating exchanges between the arbitration and legal sectors of the two jurisdictions. As a signatory to the New York Convention, arbitral awards made in Hong Kong can be enforced and recognised internationally. Since Hong Kong’s return to the motherland in 1997, the New York Convention no longer applies to the enforcement of Hong Kong awards in the Mainland and vice versa. Therefore, the 1999 Arrangement and the 2020 Supplemental Arrangement provide, in the alternative, a simple and effective mechanism on reciprocal enforcement and recognition of arbitral awards between the two jurisdictions. Under the Interim Measures Arrangement, Hong Kong became the first jurisdiction outside the Mainland where, as a seat of arbitration, parties to arbitral proceedings administered by designated arbitral institutions are able to apply directly to the Mainland courts for interim measures, including property preservation, evidence preservation and conduct preservation. Strategically positioned as a gateway to cities in the bay area, Hong Kong enjoys a geographical advantage in providing international legal and dispute resolution services to users in the bay area. The Hong Kong Legal Hub, located at the heart of Hong Kong’s central business district, houses an array of internationally reputable institutions to offer arbitration and dispute resolution services. I welcome you all to visit the legal hub in the coming week, where some rounds of the oral arguments will take place there. Strong legal infrastructureSome of you may recall that the DoJ hosted the CISG Conference together with the opening ceremony of the moot last year virtually. The Sale of Goods (United Nations Convention) Ordinance, which implements the CISG, had already come into force in Hong Kong on December 1, 2022. The application of the CISG to the Hong Kong SAR would allow for a uniform sales law to govern Hong Kong businesses’ international sales transactions, enabling businesses to trade with their overseas counterparts on a fair and level playing field. This would undoubtedly enhance Hong Kong’s legal infrastructure for the international sale of goods and further its reputation as an international hub for trade and dispute resolution. In 2022, we unlocked a new feature for our arbitration law, which allowed the use of certain outcome-related fee structures for arbitration (ORFSA) agreements in Hong Kong. With ORFSA and third-party funding, arbitration users and lawyers are given greater flexibility in devising fee arrangements and funding modes that suit their financial and business needs. Overall, the DoJ is committed to exploring new initiatives with a view to consolidating Hong Kong’s status as an international legal hub for legal, deal-making and dispute resolution services. We believe the edge of Hong Kong’s arbitration landscape is facilitative to business and deal making, and that is why according to the International Arbitration Surveys conducted by Queen Mary University of London, Hong Kong has been continuously ranked amongst the top five preferred seats for arbitration globally since 2015. Strong pool of international & multilingual talentHong Kong has an international and diversified pool of legal and dispute resolution talent. As at February 2023, there are over 1,600 practising barristers, over 11,000 practising solicitors and over 1,400 registered foreign lawyers from 34 different jurisdictions in Hong Kong. There are over 930 Hong Kong solicitors’ firms and over 70 registered foreign law firms. The presence of such an array of international and multilingual lawyers enables Hong Kong to provide top quality legal services in different areas of civil and commercial law. As the Chief Executive has mentioned in the 2022 Policy Address, the Hong Kong SAR Government strives to be more proactive and aggressive in attracting and nurturing talent in different professional fields. On this note, I welcome all of you to come to Hong Kong for further studies and developing a career in law and arbitration. Secretary for Justice Paul Lam gave these remarks at the 20th Willem C Vis East International Commercial Arbitration Moot opening ceremony on March 19.
Deputy Secretary for Justice Cheung Kwok-kwan today led a delegation of 30 Hong Kong legal professionals to attend an international promotional campaign to promote Hong Kong's legal and dispute resolution services in Bangkok, Thailand. Co-organised by the Department of Justice and the Trade Development Council, the "Resolve2Win - Legal Services of Hong Kong, Opportunities for All" campaign attracted more than 200 participants from different sectors such as the financial, legal and professional services. In his opening remarks, Mr Cheung said that as an important economy in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Thailand has a mature alternative dispute resolution (ADR) culture, a pool of experienced dispute resolution professionals, and a strong legal infrastructure in line with international standards. He added that he hopes to foster exchanges and create opportunities for businesses and legal and ADR services providers in both places through this campaign. To further strengthen co-operation in mediation between Hong Kong and Thailand and bring about a change to the litigation culture in society, the department and the Thailand Arbitration Center (THAC) collaborated to promote the "Mediate First" Pledge campaign in Thailand for the first time. A signing ceremony of the "Mediate First" Pledge was held during the event, with 35 legal and business organisations, enterprises and individuals in Thailand agreeing to sign the agreement to support first exploring the use of mediation to resolve disputes, signifying a closer relationship between Thailand and Hong Kong on promoting mediation. This is the first time Hong Kong's "Mediate First" Pledge campaign was promoted overseas. Mr Cheung then delivered his keynote speech at the event's luncheon. Highlighting the unique opportunities offered by Hong Kong as the only common law jurisdiction within China under "one country, two systems", he pointed out that national strategies including the 14th Five-Year Plan, the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area development and the Belt & Road Initiative not only have injected continuous impetus to the growth of Hong Kong, but also brought opportunities to ASEAN member states. Mr Cheung further stated that as the leading legal and dispute resolution services centre in the Asia-Pacific region, Hong Kong has a strong pool of legal talent particularly in the area of dispute resolution services. He encouraged enterprises and talent to capitalise on Hong Kong's unique advantages of enjoying the strong support of the motherland and being closely connected to the world under "one country, two systems" to tap into the development opportunities of the bay area and beyond. Mr Cheung reiterated that the National Security Law has provided stability and a secure environment to enterprises and investors, which is conducive for both local and international businesses in Hong Kong to flourish. After the event concluded, Mr Cheung led the delegation to visit the THAC to strengthen the collaboration with the institution and exchange views on the development and promotion of alternate dispute resolution. Additionally, the group met with the Lawyers Council of Thailand to discuss the development of the legal profession and explore potential future collaborations with the council and facilitate the Thai-Hong Kong legal profession in building stronger and closer ties. Mr Cheung also took the opportunity to meet Secretary-General of the Office of the Judiciary of Thailand Teerasak Ngeeywijit. He emphasised that he looks forward to further exploring the enhancement of the existing collaboration with the Office of the Judiciary. The delegation will meet the Thai-Chinese Chamber of Commerce tomorrow morning before concluding their visit.