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The Security Bureau today severely condemned Yuan Gong-yi, Ho Leung-mau, Leung Chung-hang and others for forming a so-called Hong Kong Parliament overseas, suspected of contravening the offence of subversion under Article 22 of the National Security Law. It pointed out that on the basis of Article 37 of the National Security Law, Police shall spare no efforts in pursuing the cases in accordance with the law in order to bring the suspected offenders to justice. The bureau also appealed to the public to dissociate themselves from individuals contravening the National Security Law and the illegal activities such individuals organised, so as to avoid bearing any unnecessary legal risks.
Police’s National Security Department today arrested two men on suspicion of publishing posts on social media platforms to disseminate seditious messages, fostering enmity in Hong Kong society and inciting the use of violence. The duo, aged 34 and 36, were arrested in Wan Chai and Central respectively for doing an act or acts with seditious intention in contravention of sections 9 and 10 of the Crimes Ordinance. Official investigations also revealed that the 36-year-old man had taken indecent photos of an individual and posted them on social platforms. He was suspected of voyeurism and publication of images originating from commission of voyeurism, contravening sections 159AAB and 159AAD of the ordinance. Police conducted searches at the two arrestees’ residences and offices with a court warrant. Communication devices used to publish seditious messages and indecent photos were seized.
Secretary for Justice Paul Lam today told his colleagues that President Xi Jinping’s remarks that the Judiciary shall exercise independent judicial power are crucial to the maintenance of the rule of law in Hong Kong. Mr Lam made the remarks when addressing the two Spirit of the President’s Important Speech sessions held by the Department of Justice. The justice chief spelt out his working targets to around 100 attending directorate officials, including promoting the proper concept of the rule of law and the actual situation in Hong Kong as well as establishing the city as an international legal and dispute resolution services centre in the Asia-Pacific region. Mr Lam added that President Xi’s important speech not only provided crucial guidance on governance by the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government in the coming five years, but also set out a high-level policy direction to achieve those two targets. He further pointed out that the legal sector has been greatly encouraged by the President’s explicit acknowledgement in maintaining Hong Kong’s unique advantages under the common law system, and his remarks on the central government’s support in Hong Kong’s effort to maintain its distinctive status and edge, keeping the business environment free, open and regulated. Noting President Xi’s remarks that the Judiciary shall exercise independent judicial power, which is a core component in the common law system, Mr Lam explained that the remarks were crucial to the maintenance of the rule of law in Hong Kong. The justice chief encouraged colleagues to grasp the core essence of President Xi’s important speech and build it into their own work. He also prompted them to continue to proactively leverage Hong Kong’s unique advantages under “one country, two systems” to seize the opportunities brought about by the national development. The President delivered an important speech at the meeting celebrating the 25th anniversary of Hong Kong's return to the motherland and the inaugural ceremony of the sixth-term Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government. He raised "four musts" for the new administration: we must fully and faithfully implement the principle of "one country, two systems"; we must uphold the central government's overall jurisdiction while securing the Hong Kong SAR's high degree of autonomy; we must ensure that Hong Kong is administered by patriots; and we must maintain Hong Kong's distinctive status and advantages. The President also laid down four proposals for the newly inaugurated Government, ie further improving its governance, continuing to create strong impetus for growth, earnestly addressing people's concerns and difficulties in daily life, and working together to safeguard harmony and stability.
The Beat Drugs Fund today began inviting grant applications for its 2022 funding exercise. The application period closes on September 7. The fund subsidises projects which tackle the problem of drug abuse. Priority will be accorded to projects in three areas - treatment and rehabilitation, preventive education and publicity, and research. The application form and guide are available on the Security Bureau Narcotics Division website. The Beat Drugs Fund Association will also arrange three briefing and experience sharing sessions online on August 1, 4 and 11 for interested applicants. The online enrolment form is now available. Application results will be released in the first quarter of next year.
The Correctional Services Department clarified that it has continuously been taking various measures to improve the custodial environment, including air ventilation, in its institutions. The department issued the statement today in response to unfounded remarks made by a member of the public through the media on the treatment of people in custody. It emphasised that the department is committed to ensuring a secure, safe, humane, decent and healthy custodial environment. Apart from the regular replacement of fans, the department has additionally installed different types of fans, including high power industrial fans and anti-suicide cell safety fans at different institutions according to the genuine needs. New-style gates and windows have also been installed progressively to improve air ventilation.  Moreover, the department allows detainees to purchase ice cooling towels and hand fans. For security reasons, the purchase of antipyretic paste is not allowed. Additionally, the department pointed out that it arranges daily exercise for those in custody in accordance with the law, except for those exempted by the medical officer for health reasons. Furthermore, the department arranges people in custody to take a daily shower at different time slots with regard to the operations of the institutions, adding that there is no restriction that a shower should be completed within 10 minutes. It also pointed out that in general, the department switches off lighting devices in cells during the bedtime of detainees. However, having regard to the actual operational needs of the institution, appropriate illumination will be maintained in individual cells at night to ensure the health conditions of such individuals can be effectively monitored by correctional officers.  The department condemns the individual member of the public for making unfounded remarks to smear the department.
The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government strongly objects to unfair criticisms from the United Nations Human Rights Committee. It issued the statement today after the committee furnished its concluding observations on the fourth report of the Hong Kong SAR in the light of the International Covenant on Civil & Political Rights (ICCPR). The Constitutional & Mainland Affairs Bureau said the Hong Kong SAR Government is pleased that the committee appreciates the constructive dialogue it has had with the delegation and welcomes the detailed replies given by the delegation during and after the meetings. However, the committee continues to express unsubstantiated criticisms towards the Hong Kong SAR despite the delegation's efforts in addressing members' concerns and clarifying the misunderstandings of the human rights situation in the city. In the concluding observations, the committee commended the Hong Kong SAR Government in a number of areas, including the enhancements of legal protection from discrimination and harassment, the establishment of a Commission on Children, the introduction of statutory paternity leave and the launch of the Unified Screening Mechanism. The bureau noted that the committee has also raised a number of concerns and recommendations without giving due weight to the unique circumstances of the city which were explained by the delegation time and again. The committee should view the enactment and implementation of the National Security Law in the proper context with due regard to the background of the violent social unrests preceding the enactment of the law, and the actual operation and effect of the law, the bureau stressed. On law enforcement, it added that the committee should duly recognise that any law enforcement actions taken by Hong Kong law enforcement agencies are based on evidence, strictly according to the law, for the acts of the people or entities concerned, and have nothing to do with their background. In particular, for enforcement actions in respect of the sedition offence to which the committee has made specific reference, due regard should be given to the soft resistance acts, hate speeches and publications which have radicalised the general public since 2019. On the committee's comments on procedures provided under the National Security Law, it should be stressed that none of them would undermine judicial independence or right to a fair hearing under Article 14 of the ICCPR. Additionally, the designation of judges by the Chief Executive (CE) to handle cases involving offences endangering national security only involves designating a list of judges from existing judges, rather than choosing a particular judge to preside over a specific case, and the assignment of cases to individual designated judges remains to be the independent decisions of the Judiciary, not the CE. Regarding the use of force by Police and its oversight mechanism, the Hong Kong SAR Government would like to reiterate that the committee's remarks that excessive force had been used by Police have disregarded the extreme violence inflicted by the rioters. Furthermore, the committee's concern that the recent legal aid reform has restricted the rights to access to legal aid and to counsel of one's choice, is unsubstantiated and factually incorrect. The bureau stated that the right to choose lawyers is not absolute. It is not a right to have a specific legal representative of one's choice. A fair trial does not necessarily mean that a party must be legally represented by a lawyer of his or her own choice. On the improved electoral system, the bureau pointed out that there is no cure-all in respect of electoral system and how it should be improved. The development of democracy in the Hong Kong SAR must be consistent with the city's constitutional order under the Constitution, the Basic Law and the “one country, two systems” principle. The political, economic, social, cultural and historical circumstances of the Hong Kong SAR must also be taken into account. In response to the committee's repeated recommendation for establishing an independent human rights institution in accordance with the Paris Principles, the bureau said: “Human rights are guaranteed constitutionally by both the Constitution and the Basic Law, and is underpinned by the rule of law and an independent judiciary. “The Hong Kong SAR Government will ensure that the existing mechanism continues to effectively protect fundamental rights and freedoms in Hong Kong, and does not see any need for the establishment of an additional human rights institution.” Concerning the committee's recommendation on measures to safeguard the rights of foreign domestic helpers, the bureau reiterated that through multipronged strategies of enforcement, publicity and the provision of supporting measures, the Hong Kong SAR Government attaches great importance to safeguarding the rights of helpers working in the city. “We do not tolerate any exploitation or abuse of helpers. Helpers who have been ill-treated by employers and employment agencies are encouraged to report to law enforcement agencies and/or the Labour Department promptly.”
Secretary for Transport & Logistics Lam Sai-hung has been identified as a close contact of a positive COVID-19 case and is undergoing home quarantine. A friend of his, whom Mr Lam dined with last night, tested positive for COVID-19 through a rapid antigen test (RAT) earlier today. Mr Lam was identified as a close contact after the assessment conducted by the Centre for Health Protection. He is undergoing home quarantine in accordance with the Government’s StayHomeSafe scheme and will undergo medical surveillance as required by the scheme, including conducting tests on specified days. He will work from home during the quarantine period. Mr Lam tested negative after taking a COVID-19 RAT this morning. He wore masks and followed disease prevention measures at work. The bureau has conducted thorough cleaning and disinfection at the relevant office and has arranged staff members to undergo testing.
Hong Kong recorded 31,434 crime cases in the first half of this year, a 1.8% rise compared to the same period last year, Police said today.  The increase in overall crimes is mainly due to the rise of over 3,000 deception cases. There were also significant increases in blackmail and homicide cases. However, substantial decreases were registered in various major crimes. The force said the city’s law and order situation in the first half of this year remained stable. The number of deception cases rose 41.7% to 12,326, over 70% of which were Internet-related. The rise was mainly driven by the upsurge in online shopping, employment and investment fraud cases as well as telephone deception. The pecuniary loss involved in investment and telephone scam cases was over $700 million and $400 million. Police reminded members of the public to stay vigilant when receiving unfamiliar telephone calls purporting to be from government officials across the boundary or calls about detained parcels. If in doubt, the public should immediately call Police’s 24-hour Anti-Scam Helpline 18222. They may also visit the Anti-Deception Coordination Centre website and the CyberDefender platform for the latest anti-deception information. A total of 921 blackmail cases were recorded, an increase of 30.3% compared with the same period last year. The upsurge was mainly attributable to “naked chat” blackmail. As at June 30, Police arrested a total of 201 people in its efforts to enforce the National Security Law. Over half of the arrestees have been charged. As at mid-July, the Counter-terrorism Reporting Hotline 63-666-999 received over 3,800 messages, and Police have been following up on reports involving terrorism or violence.
The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government today strongly condemned attempts made by US politicians to seek the imposition of “sanctions” on prosecutors from the Department of Justice (DoJ). In a statement, the Hong Kong SAR Government pointed out that politicians from the US Congressional-Executive Commission on China are targeting DoJ prosecutors who have been fulfilling their righteous duties of administering justice independently and impartially. It said DoJ prosecutors act strictly in accordance with a longstanding international practice that the decision to prosecute will only take into consideration the admissible evidence to justify instituting proceedings and the applicable law.  The statement said that Hong Kong is governed by the rule of law where laws must be observed and lawbreakers held to account. No one is above the law and cases will never be handled any differently owing to the political beliefs or background of the people involved. It added that safeguarding national security falls within the internal affairs of a sovereign jurisdiction, hence the implementation of the National Security Law should be free from any intervention. The Hong Kong SAR Government said the US’ arbitrary and unreasonable bullying has demonstrated disrespect for the rule of law, seriously violated international norms and grossly interfered in Hong Kong affairs and China’s internal affairs at large. Secretary for Justice Paul Lam reiterated that any unscrupulous attempt to pressure DoJ prosecutors would be futile. “My colleagues and I continue to stay united in discharging our constitutional duties without fear or favour,” Mr Lam said.
The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government today said the US Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report 2022 that puts Hong Kong on the Tier-2 Watch List is unfair and not substantiated by facts. In a statement, it explained that trafficking in persons (TIP) is never a prevalent problem in Hong Kong and there has never been any sign that the city is being actively used by syndicates as a destination or transit point for TIP. The Hong Kong SAR Government has all along been making proactive and multi-pronged efforts in the fight against TIP and injected an enormous amount of resources to combat TIP and enhance the protection and well-being of foreign domestic helpers (FDHs) in Hong Kong, the statement said. A high-level steering committee was established in 2018 and it promulgated an action plan to tackle TIP and enhance protection of FDHs. The action plan contained measures that included victim identification and protection as well as partnership with different stakeholders and all such measures were firmly in place by end-2019. The Hong Kong SAR Government also pointed out that it has sustained all anti-TIP efforts despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. In particular, coverage of the initial screening of TIP victims has been fully extended since the end of 2019 to cover all cases involving people vulnerable to TIP risks, including illegal immigrants, sex workers, illegal workers, FDHs and imported workers that came to the attention of Police, the Immigration Department, the Customs & Excise Department and the Labour Department. In 2021, the number of initial screenings conducted by such departments was around 7,700, a three-fold increase over the number conducted in 2016, with only one victim identified. In 2020, three victims were identified from the 6,900 initial screenings conducted.   The very small number and percentage of victims identified thus far once again reinforces the observation that TIP is never a prevalent problem in Hong Kong, the statement said, noting that it is baseless and unfair to cast doubt on the quality of the screenings in the city and discredit its screening procedure merely because of the low number of victims so identified. The victim identified in 2021 was initially screened by the FDH Special Investigation Section of the Immigration Department, which was established in 2019 to step up scrutiny of FDHs visa applications to facilitate identification of potential TIP victims and cases of exploited FDHs. This speaks for itself of the effectiveness of the new strategy in strengthening victim identification, the statement indicated. On the claim about the lack of a composite trafficking legislation in the city, the Hong Kong SAR Government stated that the current legislative framework comprising over 50 legal provisions against various TIP conducts provides a comprehensive package of safeguards comparable to composite TIP laws found in other jurisdictions and has served Hong Kong well. Every jurisdiction should have its latitude to determine the best legal framework to tackle the issue and there is simply no one-size-fits-all solution. There is no indication to suggest the effectiveness of Hong Kong’s anti-TIP efforts is undermined without a composite trafficking legislation, the statement outlined. Regarding enforcement efforts, Police conducted 60 anti-vice operations in 2021, a 46% increase when compared with the preceding year. In the same year, 278 people were arrested for the offence of keeping a vice establishment or prostitution-related crimes. In 2021, a total of 26 FDH employers were prosecuted for aiding and abetting their FDHs in breaching their conditions of stay and an additional 20 FDH employers were prosecuted for offences such as common assault, assault occasioning actual bodily harm, indecent assault and criminal intimidation. The Hong Kong SAR Government emphasised that the Labour Department continues rigorous enforcement actions against employment agencies (EAs) in breach of the law. In 2021, the department successfully prosecuted five EAs and revoked or refused to issue the licences of seven agencies. It revealed that the four categories of offences of endangering national security, which the National Security Law provides, are clearly defined with the elements of offences, penalties, mitigation factors and consequences clearly prescribed. Any law enforcement actions taken by law enforcement agencies are based on evidence, strictly according to the law, for the acts of the persons concerned. Acts and activities endangering national security are distinctly different from normal interactions, and law-abiding people will not unwittingly violate the law, it added. The US Department of State's comments on the National Security Law in the US Trafficking in Persons Report 2022 clearly do not reflect the facts, the Hong Kong SAR Government stressed. While noting that Hong Kong’s all-out efforts in the fight against TIP have not received due and fair recognition, the Hong Kong SAR Government made it clear that the city, as a responsible member of the international community, will continue its firm commitment to combatting TIP and contributing to the global efforts of this important cause.